DP11752 Childlessness, Celibacy and Net Fertility in Pre-Industrial England: The Middle-class Evolutionary Advantage

Author(s): David de la Croix, Eric Schneider, Jacob Weisdorf
Publication Date: January 2017
Date Revised: February 2019
Keyword(s): Childlessness, European Marriage Pattern, Evolutionary Advantage, Fertility, Industrial Rev- olution, Marriage, Social Class
JEL(s): J12, J13, N33
Programme Areas: Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=11752

In explaining England's early industrial development, previous research has highlighted that wealthy pre-industrial elites had more surviving offspring than their poorer counterparts. Thus, entrepreneurial traits spread and helped England grow rich. We contest this view, showing that lower-class reproduction rates were no different from the elites when taking singleness and childlessness into account. Elites married less and were more often childless. Many died without descendants. We find that the middle classes had the highest net reproduction and argue that this advantage was instrumental to England's economic success because the middle class invested most strongly in human capital.