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Malthus, Wages, and Preindustrial Growth

  • GREGORY CLARK (a1), JOSEPH CUMMINS (a2) and BROCK SMITH (a3)
Abstract

Gregory Clark argued in A Farewell to Alms that preindustrial societies, including England, were Malthusian. Day wages show incomes were trendless: as high in Europe in the medieval era as in 1800, even in England. The opposed view is that England and the Netherlands grew substantially from 1200 to 1800. Early day wages overestimate living standards. Here we show that preindustrial farm employment shares can be estimated from probate occupation reports. These imply only 60 percent employed in farming in England in 1560–1579 and 1653–1660, consistent with the high incomes indicated by wages. Day wages do measure preindustrial living standards.

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