MCDB 150: Global Problems of Population Growth

Lecture 8

 - Demographic Transition in Europe; Fertility Decline


Prior to Malthus, population growth was seen as good for the power and wealth of a country. The rapid population growth of America was crucial in expelling England (via the Revolution) and France (via the Louisiana Purchase) from the US. But in fact, the numbers of the poor were growing in Europe in the 1700s. Malthus argued that poverty was due to an imbalance between people and resources; since population could rise very fast, it could always outstrip any gains in productivity. He did not anticipate an exponential increase in production or a voluntary decrease in fertility. However, Malthus’ thinking is still important because high population levels and environmental limitations are in fact problematic today. By the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mortality was falling in Europe and this caused a population explosion. The productivity gains of the Industrial Revolution were nearly balanced by the increased population; per capita income of the working classes was not much improved. Fertility didn’t drop until late in the nineteenth century; per capita income started to grow rapidly. The reason for the fertility decline is not well explained by declining mortality or rising standard of living or any other socioeconomic factor. The mortality and later fertility drop is called the Demographic Transition. The extension of lifespan and the freedom from continual childbearing and child rearing is one of the most important changes ever in what it means to be a human.

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Global Problems of Population Growth

MCDB 150 - Lecture 8 - Demographic Transition in Europe; Fertility Decline

Chapter 1. Praises of European Population Growth [00:00:00]

Professor Robert Wyman: Last time–so last time we discussed two factors that limited–that retarded and limited your progress. Remember, I’m describing that Europe was in a pretty bad situation. One was sort of mental–cultural, there was a mindset that largely focused on the supernatural and did not have that mindset to question received wisdom and to test whatever they believed against what they saw in reality. The second was a food and population balance that left vast numbers of people in conditions of near starvation.

Around 1750–around 1700, Europe started to outgrow these limitations and we started talking about that last time. We saw how the scientific revolution, given great impetus by Newton, he wasn’t the only one but the fabulous success in explaining the universe that Newton’s three very simple laws–you learned that certainly in high school if not in junior high school–explained how all the heavens work and that was an amazing creation of the human mind and it had tremendous import and started what’s been called the Enlightenment.

That sort of changed the mental set into something more progressive, and then as you’ve read in–I hope in your course packet the introduction of foods from America sort of cut down–got rid of the physical limitation on population and economic well being in Europe, that the amount of food went way up. So this–especially the food–increased the European population. There’s all kinds of different numbers available but anywhere from 62% up to a doubling of the European population due to the introduction of American foods.

Now the standard belief about population at that time was that population is a wonderful thing. Jean-Jacques Rousseau who we’ve talked about, who was abandoning his own children by the car load to control his individual family’s–the number of children they had to cope with–in terms when he thought about the grand–the political system he said, “that government under which the citizens do most increase and multiply is infallibly the best. Similarly, the government under which a people diminishes in number and wastes away is the worst.” He’s very clear that not only is high population good but it’s infallibly good.

Benjamin Franklin, around 1751, argues about this. “There were upwards of one million English souls in America,” This is before the Revolution. “This million doubling supposed but once in 25 years,” which is not a bad estimate of the doubling time of American population at that time, due largely to immigration. “Doubling once every 25 years, within and another–will, in another century be more than the people of England. What an accession of power that will be.” And the realization of American increase in numbers and therefore increase in power was very important in the history of that time.

After the French and Indian War, before our Revolution that you know of, the settlement that the English got Canada, which was barren wasn’t worth very much at the time, and the French kept the islands in the Atlantic which were very rich, sugar and plantations, slavery of course. The French kept those and the English took Canada. Why? To keep the Americans in check because they knew that the Americans would get very strong.

Thomas Jefferson often said, ‘population is power,’ so in 1800 when the U.S. was only ten years old, so very fragile in terms of our military strength and everything like that. Napoleon had recently–Spain had owned Louisiana which was the whole vast territory to the west of the 13 colonies, and during the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon got charge of them. He was going to send French troops there to occupy Louisiana because they were such a big and important territory, but the U.S., of course, objected. We were having this huge population growth, immigration, they were flooding over the Appalachian Mountains into the territories. The next boundary was the Mississippi River, and America did not want any of the European powers taking control there.

The French Ambassador in America realized that America was growing so rapidly in power and he thought Napoleon’s idea to send troops was stupid, that Napoleon would lose the war. This guy was very clever, he did one thing, he sent to Napoleon a summary of the American Census of 1800. Remember that in The Constitution we have to take a census. There was one taken in 1800 and it showed such a great rate of American population increase that that’s all he had to send. It showed that the U.S. population was doubling every 22 years, not the 25 that Benjamin Franklin had estimated. Napoleon got the message immediately; there was no way that France was going to be able to hold Louisiana against American objections. What did Napoleon do? Sold it to us for a pittance, basically a pittance, because he knew he could not hold it; the power of population.

Now why did governments love large populations? Why was it power? Two things, one a lot of men and what do you do with men? Take them into the army so you have big military power, also more people farm more land, produce more food, and other goods. Then what can you do? You can tax it, so the governments get a lot of tax and a lot of people if they have a big population. There was no question in anyone’s mind that a big and growing population was just a wonderful sort of thing.

What they didn’t realize is one of the things that I’m trying to get across in this class, that that system works for a situation where you have no limitation on land or resources. It’s like I’ve been–I was describing for Africa where the population was small and land was large, then population is–can be a benefit in the way just described. The reality, for Europe especially, was different. After 1750, again largely due to the American foods, people filled the European countrysides to overflowing capacity.

These are quotes from various sources back then. “Mountains spilled over with people, cities grew and the plains became full, but this increase in population brought more mouths to feed. Population rose and the resources could not match the population.” When you have more consumers then goods, law of supply and demand, prices rose, people couldn’t afford what they previously could afford, and poverty deepened.

In this period in Europe people often moved–migrated seasonally to get jobs because they didn’t have enough income from their own land. They would go to where some harvest–they were needed to harvest or needed to work on a building project, but at this time this population of people wandering around looking for some sort of work increased so much that the line between migration and vagabondage, becoming just a vagabond, was crossed by hundreds of thousands of Europeans. They were just wandering around looking for some kind of work to keep them alive for a little bit longer.

This was written–noticed and written about a lot at the time. They flooded the highways, roads were opening up at the time. They flooded the highways of France, Germany, the low countries, all of these places this was noticed. Children at the time–again you read there’s crowded orphanages and foundling homes, women and children–very large number of beggars arose at this time. Women and children begged on church steps and on roadsides. This problem of poverty as I’ve mentioned was much observed, much worried about, much commented upon, and in fact, all of the great intellectuals of the day, whose names we still know, commented upon it.

You all know Edward Gibbon? Gibbon wrote, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, one of the most famous intellectuals of that time. Right after that he wrote, “In the civilized world the most numerous class is condemned to ignorance and poverty.” Why were people poor? Well the general consideration then: they were poor because they were in some way deficient. The idea was that God had given some people–kings and aristocrats–the abilities and capability to rule and all the others were relegated to the lower classes. They just didn’t–they had bad heredity, they were lazy, they were “the wrong sort,” they were inherently incapable that their nature, their human nature, they didn’t really have genetic ideas back then, was to be incapable of leading the good kind of life.

Well, this was a nice theory and people who are upper class enough to get an education to write about it could live comfortably with that theory. Then America opens up for colonization and guess what happens? Who moves to America? The poorest people, especially from England. The lower classes moved to Australia at a somewhat later time, and then they empty out the prisons going to Australia so they have really the lower classes. What happens to America? As I’ve just showed you the people work hard, they’re industrious, they make a lot of money, they get ahead, everything looks very good in America and so the theory just didn’t fit observation.

As I’ve mentioned, people are, by now, paying attention to what’s around them and this idea that Americans had been so poor in England but they moved to America and things get better. The question arose: why were the poor so poor in England? Kind of an obvious question; again not the first time that this question had been asked. The Bible, and again sorry for–keep referring to religion but you cannot, just cannot discuss Western intellectual history without going there because that was the basis of the way people thought. What the Bible says, Ecclesiastes, ‘when goods increase they are increased that eat them.’ If you have more stuff, population grows and they eat the food. Very close to what we’ll see Malthus says later.

Edmund Burke, who as you know is now considered the father of conservative political philosophy: “The laboring people are only poor because they are numerous; numbers in their nature imply poverty.” In a fair distribution–what liberals were saying share equally, “In a fair distribution among a vast multitude none can have much.” He was talking against spreading the wealth because under that condition if you spread the wealth everybody is extremely poor.

Chapter 2. Malthusian Times [00:12:32]

Those kind of thoughts started people thinking about the relationship between population and resources. What was that? There’s this sort of a fairly new way of thinking about things. Where did they turn to? Again, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, science was the leading source of intellectual new ideas and natural history was going on–was getting going at that time, studying of plants and animals in their natural habitats, just like all your TAs for this course.

Adam Smith, among others, paid great attention to what the naturalists were saying. In The Wealth of Nations, 1776, “Every species of animal naturally multiples in proportion to the means of their subsistence and no species can ever multiply beyond it.” Then he explicitly says, “Men, like all other animals, naturally multiply in proportion to their means of subsistence.” So he’s immediately applying an ecological law from the study of animals to people. Well how fast can humans multiply? David Hume, another one of the luminous philosophers, 1742: “Almost every man who thinks he can maintain a family will have one, and the human species at this rate of propagation would more than double every generation.”

Adam Smith again got some of the problem; he realized that if wages increased, if things started to get better and wages increased, this would lead to an increase in population. He explicitly says, if people have more money they’re going to be able to feed their children more and they will stay alive, and there will be a decline in mortality, and the population will grow. He–very surprising–did not close the circle and did not–never apparently realized that this growth in the population would mean more competitors for the jobs and would push wages back down again.

That was the great achievement of Malthus–and all this interest in what is the cause of poverty, and there were many other things. There was an enclosure movement in England at the time where the lands on which the peasants had lived were being closed in and controlled by the squires, the country squires and so forth; a lot of other things going on. This was the kind of argumentation that was going on at the time.

Malthus was the one that realized that population and wages and mortality were in a negative–what we now call a negative feedback loop. If wages increased, as I’ve just said, then population grows and if population grows the competition for jobs and for food and for everything else pushes wages back down, or pushes prices back up so if you earn the same you’re still getting less. In short, although the population could grow and the economy on a gross scale could grow, the per capita income, he basically said, could not grow.

In the strongest statement of this, and he went through many editions with many different statements, but in the strongest statement economic progress is basically impossible; looked at from the point of view of per capita income, the living standards of the average person. Malthus was very clever and thought more deeply about it and he was aware of two contradictory changes that were happening throughout the eighteenth century; he writes in 1798, at the end of the eighteenth century.

As I’ve mentioned and you’ve read there’s no question that agriculture was improving, not only American foods, but also agronomy was coming in as a science and people were learning, even with the same crops, to improve the crops, to improve their livestock, to fertilize better, to rotate fields better. They were learning to grow more food. Nevertheless, even though there was more food around poverty was growing, and that was also very clear at the time.

His argument is based on a few very simple kinds of statements. Contrary to some previous thinkers who envisioned the relation between population and resources as there’s a fixed amount of resources. There’s a pie. We now use the expression pie; there’s a pie and depending on how many people there are you divide the pie into smaller and smaller slices. The more people, the smaller slices of the pie. That is completely wrong and never has been correct. All people do some kind of work and the pie grows with each person some–the pie grows to a certain degree and the question is how much does the pie grow?

For instance again, in the United States at the time, we had these vast lands to the west where we were killing or had killed the Indians and they were very few of them anyway, so that allowed each new person–so as the population grows–again when you have no limitation of resources–a new family is living on the frontier, the frontier becomes crowded. American population was growing very fast; they were having lots of kids, lots of immigrants, where do the new people go? They just move some miles to the west and they get a beautiful new farm and the land is just as good as what was left behind and they grow as much as the farmers that they left behind. The population increases, the gross economy increases, and the per capita standard of living does not decrease because this guy has the same amount of resources as the previous generation had.

This was not the condition in Europe, or in England, or the rest of–actually all across Eurasia. Here the law of diminishing returns takes effect because land starts to be limiting. When land is limiting–people are naturally smart, what do they do? If there’s beautiful land, fertile land by a river, of course they farm that first, and so as the population grows that gets taken up, all the good land comes under the plow and is good. Population keeps growing, well the next set of people have to go to less good land, maybe drier land, maybe hillier land, and their productivity is not quite as good as the previous group that got the best land. Population keeps growing and people have to move high on the mountaintops, into dry areas, into desert areas, into swampy areas, in all kinds of areas where their production is not going to be as high.

The average income, from say farming, decreases as you use less good land and so things–conditions get worse and finally all the land is used up and there’s no land for farmers whatsoever. This is the law of diminishing returns. If you travel around you can really see the law of diminishing returns happen–a mix of how people always do some work, but when there isn’t much resource to take advantage of they can accomplish very little.

Quite a few years ago I was traveling in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru, and a lot of native Indian markets there–very colorful, tourists love to go to them–but you watch the ladies sit down and they have a blanket in front of them and they display their wares and they–it’s all agricultural and they’ll have maybe a few fruits, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and they have almost nothing, almost no stock on the blanket. They’ve grown this over the past say months or something; they’ve walked all the way maybe even days to get to a market, and then they have very little to sell. Even if they could sell everything that they brought at some sort of a profit they didn’t have enough–their total amount that they would take home was still very, very little. They were producing some, but not very much.

In the cities–I have to tell you one story. I was in Lima in Peru, this same trip, and a lot of street vendors doing stuff and I saw one guy had a pair of socks up there, and he had some sort of a knitting needle or something. He was holding up the sock and as he was talking to the crowd, jabbing the sock with his knitting needle, and he was saying, ‘You can’t destroy this sock. You can’t destroy this sock. It’ll last the rest of your life.’ Bash, bash, bash. I’m watching for a while and I’m skeptical but the socks seemed okay. I thought, the poor guy; I bought the pair of socks. Those socks, I could not destroy them, I used them for about 20 years. It was really true. He was making some sort of a meager living but it wasn’t good. If he had a better job, if there were more resources that he could utilize–his low wages would not drag down the average.

You must realize of course that when one says a phrase like that, that he could–there were resources that he could utilize–brings up a vast consideration of power and everything else. What other resources and who gets to utilize them and so forth. It’s a much more–of course I say a little bit and there’s much, much more to say about all of these things.

The law of diminishing returns reduces the average productivity, but there’s a counter-veiling trend which he also was aware of that I’ve just mentioned. That the productivity of the land was increasing, again through the new foods and new agricultural technologies. These two factors work in opposite directions, and Malthus had to make some sort of a guess as to how these two factors would balance out.

Which would predominate? Would the introduction of new technology improve faster than the law of diminishing returns decreased it, and his conclusion was that technology would be somewhat stronger then the law of diminishing returns so that total productivity–per capita productivity and total productivity–would indeed keep increasing. He thought it would increase sort of at a constant sort of a rate.

In graph terms, let me see if I can get right to this graph–here’s–this is the standard kind of graph about Malthus. Here is the way he thought that resources, mostly food in his–in the case–the time that he was talking about–he thought they would increase in a more or less regular way, per every year if you consider these years. Every year would increase by about the same amount. He called that an arithmetic growth. We now call it a linear growth.

He and everyone else knew that population can grow faster than that, so you probably understand a little bit about exponential growth. If each couple has four surviving children, not unreasonable when there’s a moderate amount of food, and then these children have four and so on, the population does not grow 4, 6, 8, 10, 12–a linear kind of thing. It grows 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 you’re used to counting this way from bits. That’s called exponential growth where each generation doubles or improves by some percentage.

I’ve just made this graph at growing 10% a year. No matter where you–and the growth is like that, that’s an exponential curve, and all exponential curves look like that, you can change your scales but they all look exactly like that. It doesn’t matter where you start. You can start in England where these two curves would be pretty much matched at the time Malthus was writing or you can start in America where resources are way above population at the beginning, but then you just wait, America starts filling up more and more rapidly, as the population grows. 10% of a large population adds more people in a year then 10% of a small population, so as time goes on the increment per year gets bigger and bigger, and eventually it outruns resource growth.

This was Malthus’ mathematical formulation of his ideas and he believed it to be an inevitability that this was an iron law of economics, and that you couldn’t avoid this and so human population was doomed to a per capita misery kind of thing. He put it in this particular mathematical form, but as you can see, the mathematical form doesn’t really matter. As long as population can grow faster than resources you’re eventually going to get into this situation. Even if population grows linearly, if it grows at a faster pace than resources, you’re back into this situation. The idea, the simple idea is that population can grow faster than resources and I think that’s for sure true.

Chapter 3. Analysis of Malthus [00:26:59]

Malthus was certainly partly correct. He was right and he was also wrong, and he has been–you’ve probably heard Malthus always gets discussed since he wrote a big subject of controversy, and I think the current sort of fashion is to, is to put him down. How many people have heard discussions of Malthus? In how many does he come out well? How many does he come out badly? It’s about split. In certain kinds of circles it’s unfashionable to be a Malthusian nowadays.

He was right and he was wrong, and what was he right about? First he had apparently–although the historians argue about this–quite an accurate description. This Malthusian situation is an accurate description of Europe from about 1200 to into the 1700s, so for about 500 years very strong arguments can be made with whatever data is available that Europe was in this Malthusian trap. It also, as I’ll show you in a minute, that as the industrial revolution took hold, he was still right for almost another century, and then things changed.

He didn’t have this–he had a crystal ball, he was pretty good, but he didn’t have a real modern model crystal ball. There are two things that he did not foresee. He lived at the very beginning of the industrial revolution and didn’t really realize it’s power. So when he saw it, he thought he thought production of all sorts, not only agriculture, would increase kind of linearly but constant increments every year, but in fact the way it has turned out is that not only can population increase exponentially, but production can increase exponentially, and for the same reason basically.

When you produce, if you’re in this scientific–this post enlightenment era where we know science makes life better–then as your economy increases you have more money and you devote a certain fraction of it to research, to a technology and so as your economy grows every year you put more and more money into research, so in the same way that if it’s a percentage of your total income–total national income or something that you invest, and you get a good product out of it then just like population, every year you will have more income, more gross national product, more when you invest a certain fraction you have more, and also technology and science grows exponentially. What happened is that eventually technology grew–production–just as fast as population, and in fact, somewhat faster than population.

We sort of realized that when we say that our economy grows like 2% a year we don’t say–we sometimes say it grew by a $100 million dollars year, something like that, but more often–which is a linear statement, $100 million, $100 million, $100 million–but if you say 2% then next year you have 2% of 102%, and then next year 2% of 104%, it grows faster and faster. Again, this kind of percentage increase in technology in production has exactly the same limit as population. That there must be no external limits; no resources that are limiting. Now of course we realize we do have to worry about the limits of the environment. People have multiplied; people have basically filled up the earth and the–we’re using everything that looks like we’re using virtually everything that humans can use, and there’s not much left. So the question is, can we continue to increase our production? We don’t know the answer to it.

The second thing that Malthus didn’t foresee was a big drop in the birth rate. He again, acting sort of in the Newtonian mode of pronouncing scientific laws that were inviolable, and inevitable, he said the sex drive was an instinct–people liked sex–and that would not go away so they would keep reproducing. Now he was also aware of contraception, people were doing various things even at that time, and it was certainly an awareness. He was so–he was a minister–he was so morally opposed to that that he just would not really consider that people would ever do that, so he dismissed that kind of idea. What happened, that in some sense makes him wrong, is that after about another 100 years after he writes, production increases enough to keep up with population and the birth rate starts dropping and we’re going to talk about both of these–both of those things.

When you think about Malthus getting into these discussions that the strict formulation of his ideas, that we can’t make any economic progress and disaster is imminent, that’s clearly not the case, but if you just slightly rephrase his questions and ask not whether you have a dead stop to population growth–to economic growth–but that in those countries and those places with very dense populations, even though economic growth is present there, would the people be better off with a lesser population? Is Malthus right not in the extreme but in the reality that you can–even in very dense populations–you can have some economic growth, but would the people be better off if they had less–a lower population? Then instead of asking whether food is your limiting factor, asking whether the environment is your limiting factor and that–with those rather small changes in what he said makes Malthus as relevant today as at any time.

Let’s look at some of the things that I’ve been talking about. You’ve all seen–you’ve seen this graph before and you remember this is for Roman times but characteristic up to–from way, way back almost into the 1700s. that 1,000 females are born, not very different for males, most of them die–about half of them die as infants, then childbirth and they keep dying and eventually there’s very few left. This is the number that are born and the number that are left. The reason I show this again is because there’s one number here that I didn’t describe before, but is one way of characterizing this E0 is–E is for the expectancy of life, how long you’re going to live at age 0, at your birth. When a child is born how long do you expect them to live? Of course that may be say 70 years old nowadays. My mother, for instance, is 97 and so her life expectancy is like 102, so the life expectancy depends on when you’re measuring it and so this is life expectancy at birth and at this time it was just under 21 years of age.

We’ve see here that when the death rate is such as to have this kind of a life expectancy, that something like a third of the women are doing all the reproducing because the others are dead, and if it’s a third they have to have six children to keep the population going, but since a lot of that third is infertile or sick, or unmarried or whatever, the average has to be six–the women who actually can reproduce have to produce a lot more. It turns out that that’s about the limit. That much–with an expectancy of life of much less than that, much less than 20 or even maybe get it down to 20, your group, your population goes extinct.

Think mathematically just a little bit that if the average lifespan is 20 years then in every one of those 20 years, an equal number every year, 1/20th of the population is going to die and 1/20th is 5%. You can think of a 5% death rate as sort of the maximum. 5% of the population dies every year is kind of a maximum that humans can sustain. More than that and you have a lower E0; your population goes out of existence.

As time goes on, I’ve shown you this slide also, conditions get a little better so here is the way this graph–this is rather stylized, we don’t have great data to make such a graph, but this shows the life expectancy between 20 and 25 years, which we think is more or less the characteristic of humans for a long time, and then very slowly over thousands of years it gets better, and up here you’re maybe at 25. At 20–at 25 years, so 25 years–if people are going to live on average 25 years that means 1/25th of them die every year, 1/25th is 4%. When you see a death rate of 4%, which can be expressed as 4 per 100 or 40 per 1,000–did I say 40%? I meant 4%.

What has happened over these thousands of years is that we managed to keep 1% more people alive every year. From here we’re keeping the death rate as maybe 5% a year and the death rate here is maybe 4% a year, so keep those numbers in mind as a primitive kind of minimum using say the 25, that 40 per 1,000 deaths and the population is going to be fairly stable, so 40 per 1,000 people. That’s what was going on through most of human history.

Chapter 4. Historic Population Trends in Europe [00:38:11]

Now if you look at the actual numbers for Europe, you see that Eastern Europe has a–this is the death rate of not 40 per 1,000 but 38 per 1,000 here. Very, very little bit better than the rate at which you really can’t keep your population alive anymore. This continues in Eastern Europe until 1860, until Civil War time. This is the Civil War in America. Russia frees its Serfs at about this time; you’ve got a lot of the great Russian authors and musicians who are starting at around that time. So in Eastern Europe if you measure standard of living by the death rate, the death rate has improved very little over the 40 or 50; 50 is from thousands of years ago–then the 40. Then modernization takes over and it falls very slowly.

Western Europe, where the enlightenment hit first, is doing better at this time, and the line is sort of where Genghis Khan–the line between Eastern and Western Europe was basically where Genghis Khan–the Mongols occupied Europe. Here in 1800 Western Europe already has a death rate down to 28. Remember I told you in the 1700s the Western foods come in and things start getting better, so the death rate has been dropping at least all during the 1700s and depending on what historian you read, possibly before the 1700s. Eastern Europe 100 years later, this is 1800 and this is 1890, Eastern Europe is 100 years behind Western Europe, more than 100 years. Europe has already–Western Europe has progressed somewhat and at this level the population is increasing quite rapidly.

During this period, again population is increasing, resources and production are increasing somewhat, but the balance is not in favor of standard of living. For instance food. Grain accounts for, during this period, about 80% of the calories of the poor and even for the upper classes who had more meat, and eggs, and this kind of stuff it was about 50%. You can look basically at grain prices and wages and grain prices and tell how the people were living.

In Strasbourg, which is very favorably situated on land on the Rhine, just on the border between Germany and France, sometimes it’s Germany and sometimes it’s France, between 1400 and 1500 for instance, the amount of work needed to purchase a month’s worth of wheat was in the range of 60 to 80 hours. This is just before the Reformation for instance, 60 to 80 hours. By 1540, populations were already increasing, it had risen to over 100 hours and it doesn’t–and then it keeps going and it doesn’t come back down to 100 hours until the 1880s. We’re talking very; very late the people are not living better.

The wages of German workers, again measured in grain, because prices go up and down, but how much grain can you buy whether you work is the important number. It fell roughly 50% between 1500 and 1650. The percentage of males in Frankfurt in Germany with enough property to be citizens fell from 75% in 1723 to 33% in 1811. We’re watching the population get impoverished. Massive unemployment in Germany caused wages to fall below subsistence levels, especially in the 1840s, and living standards in Germany showed no signs of improvement before 1850 at the earliest. We’re talking very modern times, well into the industrial revolution, and things are not getting better if you look at per capita income.

Again, population is growing, the total national economy is growing, but per capita you’re not improving. In England, buying power started falling in the 1500s and didn’t recover to that level until well into the nineteenth century. In Paris, bread consumption did not increase per capita, did not increase between 1637 and 1854. Pastureland didn’t increase, so the same amount of meat basically was produced with some improvement because of some cattle breeding, but now it was divided among more people, and not only that, but because potatoes had come in and potatoes could keep more people alive, a lot of pastureland was taken away from pastureland and put into potatoes so basically meat became very scarce in European diets. Again, it decreased between the Middle Ages and 1800, it doesn’t start recovering.

Forests did not increase, in fact were cut down to have more land for agriculture, so wood becomes scarce for housing, for heating, for heating houses, for building houses and so forth. What happened during this period is that people–standard of living was going down, they managed to stay alive, they had to work harder and harder, the hours that they worked to get–to maintain themselves alive kept increasing and yet they didn’t make any progress. We’re talking about ballpark 100 years into the industrial revolution which we now–that’s what you learned in high school, the industrial revolution is such a wonderful thing and it improved incomes and the modern world during the industrial revolution. But in actual fact the data shows that’s really not the case, that for about 100 years the industrial revolution while making tremendous progress and total national economies are growing very big, the per capita income of all but the very upper classes doesn’t really grow.

By this time of course Malthus is dead and we know he’s been laughing in his grave because he was very controversial. When he was alive he was very controversial and it really wasn’t until the Irish potato famine, about which you have read, and massive numbers of people died for lack of resources, a bug killing the potatoes. Then people said, ‘oh yeah Malthus was right,’ and then it kept going. His idea that progress could just be eaten up by population growth turns out to be characteristic of many hundreds of years of European history and the rest of the world also of course.

Chapter 5. Fertility Decline and Stopping [00:45:26]

Now an amazing thing happens in this to start changing the story and it happens in France. What happens? The French, which looked up until about 1800, 1750 or so, looked like any other population in Europe. They had lots and lots of children, but then they stopped having a lot of children. It just came out of the blue, and what changed? The age of marriage didn’t change a lot so that wasn’t the cause of it. The age at first birth didn’t change a lot, they weren’t getting married then delaying childbirth, that stayed about the same. The interval between babies didn’t change very much so they were not using much control within marriage apparently. Once they got married they just started popping out babies.

But, they stopped having children at a young age. The age of–the age at first birth doesn’t change much, the age at last birth changes by ten years. Families stop having children about ten years earlier, chopping out a very large fraction of their fertile years. This behavior is called “stopping behavior” and we see it all around the world eventually. No one understood what was going on but they were horrified, they knew it was happening, it was–people were well aware of it and they were quite horrified by it.

Any of you that watch television know that John Adams and his wife Abigail went to Europe about that time, I think it was 1782, and she especially was distressed at the French people’s “feeble commitment to family life,” exemplified by the French families only having three or four children rather than the eight or ten that you were supposed to have. Americans at the time were having eight or nine. They were equally horrified–this is again from the Adams’, they were equally horrified by the French upper classes easy acceptance of adultery. This they found was, and this is John Adams speaking, “an indication of the general moral and social disintegration.” He said, “The French are not a moral people.”

What happens is all this behavior which was wildly decried by everyone, within a century after France starts doing it, all of Europe takes off and starts doing the same thing. Here is a graph of that. This graph starts in the year, and we’ll talk about it later, where fertility has already dropped by about 10% and here’s France and this states that–when the fertility change has already been going on to the 1820s, when it’s actually started before that, and then every other country in Europe starts dropping its fertility within this period. It goes down by–in this space of time–by 30%, an enormous change. Even though France starts it early and everybody’s horrified by it, in fact, everybody starts copying this.

This is Europe but in another century, Asia, and Latin America–follow suit. This is really a major change in what it means and how one lives life as a human being. I’ve stressed the biology of reproduction, of course we have a biological drive to keep having sex and that produces children. The culture or the cultural religion presses upon people to keep their birth rates up and this goes on for thousands and thousands of years of human history until the late 1800s, early for France and then all of a sudden all around Europe and then later in the world this very fundamental way of being a human changes.

The big question in demography, since this was noticed a long time ago, what cause this change? Why did all of a sudden with no–why did this all happen? The people at the time were absolutely dumbfounded, and dumbfounded especially that it should happen in France, because at that time France was at the height of its power, it was about the richest country in Europe, it was the most powerful, it was the most advanced in learning, all the Philosophes were there, the encyclopedia was there, it was the top of the world. Why should, of all places on earth, the richest people on earth–stop having children? Now–it wasn’t important at that time, it wasn’t considered to be important, but of course France is a totally Catholic country and so why should a Catholic country be the first one and way ahead of everyone else to reduce its birthrate?

Historians have come up with all–we don’t know the answer, let me tell you that right out. But, historians do have lots of answer for it. One–the reasons for the French fertility decline lie in the moral and religious reassessments that occurred in the tumultuous years of the French Revolution. For sure, a moral realignment was certainly taking place. How many of you know Madame Bovary, the novel?

What’s the novel–what’s the centerpiece of the novel? It’s an adulterous affair, right? Here’s a woman, a young married woman, has a child, and she has a perfectly nice husband who adores her and is quite permissive. She really has nothing objective to complain about, but she considers him boring and so she takes an exciting lover or a series of lovers.

I’m not going to give away the plot but the book was taken as a justification for having extramarital affairs. Now that’s okay for men and has been okay for men, but here’s a woman, here’s Flaubert justifying a woman’s having an extramarital affair, not because the husband was beating her or anything, he was a perfectly decent guy. That was considered terrible and he was promptly arrested and prosecuted by the government for “affronting religious morality.” Of course that was very good for sales of the book, so everybody read that book, including a lot of us still at Yale.

People were–the rest of Europe were well aware of the French lead in this and in English speaking countries France was blamed for the problem, and especially French novels, and they were corrupting our people, they were fomenting extramarital liaisons, and by implication the use of contraception. This spreads very rapidly so who knows the plot of Anna Karenina? An adulterous affair, and again, her husband wasn’t quite as nice as Bovary. He was kind of a stiff guy but he wasn’t beating her; he wasn’t really a bad guy, she goes off and has a wild affair and that–War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and The Brothers Karmazov, one of the three greatest Russian novels, are exactly on this same mode of Flaubert and they’re all really talking about this whole change in attitude toward fertility and sexuality that was overcoming Europe at this time.

Much later, not that much later, after the European fertility transition was over, which only lasted until about 1930. It starts in 1870, you’ll see these dates, the fertility drop out–except for France starts in about 1870 and is all over by 1930 and social sciences start thinking about this fertility drop but not in moralistic terms anymore, not how it was ruining our morals, but in terms of sort of quantifiable explanations. The major–again asking this, which is probably the most important question in all the social sciences, the most important change in how it is to be a human, and what is the cause of this?

They did a very massive project and we’ll have a guest speaker who’s one of the main people in this, Michael Teitelbaum, that they set up what they call an office of population research and they did–every graduate student got a different country in Europe, and he went into that country and looked at all the provincial records and dug out everything they could find and they got a mass of statistics on everything they could figure out about every province in Europe, and not only Western Europe but all the way across Europe into Russia and so it was the most–probably the most massive social science investigation that ever took place.

What had come up by that time already was kind of a schema of what’s–what we now call the demographic transition. I’ve shown you how the death rate, there’s no particular dates, this is sort of very generalized kind of idea, that the death rate–the first thing that happens in time is that the death rate falls. Then at some time later the birth rate falls–there’s–early on I described the drop in the death rate and now we see that sometime later the birth rate fall happens. Well what happens in between is this population growth.

In old times the birth rate was very high and the death rate was very high, but they pretty nearly matched, there’s a little bit of difference, the population does grow but it grows very slowly. When it’s all over, the birth rate is low and the death rate is low, and again there’s a little difference. Population grows slowly, or nowadays in a lot of Europe the birth rate goes below the death rate and population decreases somewhat slowly, but there’s no super rapid change here, there’s no big rapid change here, but in between the death–the time when the death rate falls and the time when the birth rate falls–all of this is population growth because the birth rate is above the death rate.

This is the period of the population explosions and the first of these population explosions was in Europe, not in the poor countries, not in the developing world, but in the richest part of the world at that time which was Europe. The same schema is supposed to apply later on. This is, as an empirical generalization … medium–that some countries fit this. Nobody is terribly far from this, the birth rate and the death rate always go down in some relationship to each other, but the question which arises is, is the correlation good enough that the death rate actually–the drop in the death rate actually causes the drop in the birth rate, and the theory runs in a rather obvious way, that parents know how many children they want. They know roughly how many children they can keep alive, how much farmland they have to give them to inherit, how many they need to take care of them in their old age.

When the death rate is very high, and not only high but very variable–I showed you last time in Sweden the death rate going up and down, when the death rate is high and variable you don’t know–if you have a lot of children you don’t how many are going to survive. You need not only as many children as you want, and taking into account the death rate, but taking into account the variability of the death rate. What if an epidemic comes through when my kids are young? So you have to have a lot of children in order to insure that in your old age you’ll have some to take care of you.

Chapter 6. Theories Explaining the Demographic Transition [00:58:10]

As the death rate falls people gradually really–the theory is that people gradually realize this and they reduce their fertility because they don’t need to bear so many children in order to have so many left at the end because the children–they start getting confidence that the children are not going to die. This is a lovely theory and how many of you have heard that, some version of that? It’s one of–you’ll see there’s about ten standard versions–theories about why fertility falls, this is number one. That it’s the fall in the death rate causes the fall in the birth rate, so now we’re going to–this is–look and see how accurate that this is.

This is Norway actually, and here is the death rate–this black line for Norway–and it starts falling from about middle of the 1700s, and pretty continuous fall during all this time. Here is the birth rate, pretty constant across here and then it finally starts falling in 1900 I think, so there’s a long time period between when the birth rate starts falling and–sorry when the death rate starts falling and when the birth rate starts falling. The difference between those rates is this line here that all of this is population growth, and in this period here where the death rate is quite a ways down but the birth rate hasn’t responded very much yet, the Norwegian population grows by this amount.

That’s standard, that’s the way it’s supposed to work. That’s the way the schema shows it working. Now you look at England, England and Wales, and you don’t get this picture. Here is fertility, the gray thing, and fertility starts dropping as I said around 1870, maybe 18–this shows it a little bit after 1875 or so, and then it drops rather continuously. This is fertility. Infant mortality, which is a good measure of total mortality, doesn’t really start dropping, it’s pretty constant, ups and downs, until 1905 or something like that and it only starts going down.

Here it’s the reverse situation that now you have fertility falling first and mortality falling later, and you can make a causal explanation for this, that when people are having lots and lots of kids they can’t take care of them. They don’t have enough food, they don’t have enough this, that and the other thing, so there’s a very high death rate among the children. If you drop your fertility you have more resources for each child. And that’s actually as compelling an explanation–in the absence of data–as the reverse explanation.

If you look across many, many countries which the Princeton project did, this is the drop in the mortality rate, this graph, and this is the drop in the fertility rate. This is the years, same year starts in 1825, this is 1975, so this is the period when the change was happening and for fertility here this period is when birth rate has already come down by about 10% and you’ll see that’s some kind of threshold, and when it’s down then something like 30% I think it ends and mortality has also its limits. This is the period when mortality is falling in Norway and Denmark, and Sweden and England, and Wales and so forth.

All you have to do is look at the order of these things. As I’ve shown you for fertility, France is the first one by a long shot it starts–they put it in the early 1800s, it’s down by 10% already and it’s all over by 1900 or so, France way ahead in time of anybody else. Now you look at the mortality and you say well where is France? It’s not Norway, it’s not Denmark, it’s not Sweden, where is France? Do I even see France here? There it is. Its way in the middle of the pack, that doesn’t fit the theory and if you go the other way, Norway is the first one to drop its mortality rate and where is Norway, more or less in the middle of the pack when you look at fertility. These two things don’t correlate as nicely. Again, this is the Princeton project; don’t correlate as nicely as the theory would have us do.

The end result of all these graduate students studying the relationship between mortality and fertility was? We don’t know what’s going on because we saw everything under the sun. There’s no very strong correlation. They were very smart and they tried all kinds of things and another way you can look at it is to see at what level of mortality, maybe looking at years is not the right thing but the level of mortality. They looked at infant mortality levels at the time when the fertility dropped. What you have is, in France, the infant mortality was still very high; just infants it’s not total mortality just infant mortality, almost 300 here when France starts dropping its fertility sometime this–puts it somewhere in the late 1700s. The fertility started dropping and the infant mortality was still very high.

Then you can go around the world all different kinds of places, Japan 160, Norway 100, that there doesn’t seem to be any kind of commonality here in what the infant mortality actually was when fertility drops. Remember the 400 is sort of the primitive level, and actually when you go into Asia you can see that in places like Taiwan and Mexico–Mexico doesn’t–that moved from Asia. In Mexico and Taiwan the mortality was 35 [350], so very close to the primitive level where you can just keep your society going and yet fertility starts dropping. Basically you see the whole range. The whole range is something like 35 [350] or 40 [400] and you don’t keep your society alive less than that, and modern Japan would be at this time be about 5 and you see that–the range is what you actually see is this whole range, anywhere in that range of what mortality levels people actually achieve can be the range at which fertility starts to fall.

There’s no real conclusion possible. What’s explanation number two that you all have heard? Economic development, how many have heard that explanation? Not so many, that’s very standard, the whole Reagan–the whole Reagan policy was–and for a lot of the world was that–forget about family planning and pushing that, that economic development is what reduces fertility so that’s a very good theory also and we can look at it and wow the data looks pretty good. Down here is per capita income and each of these is a separate country here, for every country as per capita income goes up fertility comes down. It can come down a fairly straight line, or it can do some wiggles and jiggles, but basically as per capita income goes up fertility goes down.

You like that theory? There’s some problems with it. How much money does it take to keep people out of bed basically? Well, the French start dropping their fertility when their per capita income is something like 180–this is in–converted basically to dollars $180 a year, 50 cents a day, back then that was more money than now, it keeps the Frenchmen out of bed. Now anybody of Italian extraction will be very proud to realize that it takes Italians twice as much, $360 or something to keep them out of bed. We have now scientifically and quantitatively proven that Italians are definitely sexier then French people.

Then you go along, here’s the Germans a little bit stolid here, and of course who–we are at exactly the opposite of what we presume that the English are supposed to be so straight that they don’t do it at all and yet in order to keep the British out of bed you have to really pay them awful lot. They have to be somewhere in the–between $700 and $800 dollars in income. There doesn’t seem to be any particular number of income that has a huge range that is required before people drop their fertility. When you think about it a little more this whole way of looking at it is not very convincing because here’s per capita income, but we’re talking about the time of industrialization and after fertility starts dropping. So once fertility starts dropping per capita income does start rising.

That’s sort of the most important take home message for today, so I’ll say it before time runs out, that the industrial revolution by itself didn’t really improve the standard of living of people. Up until about 1870 there was tremendous increase in productivity, tremendous increase in population. They cancelled each other out and for the average working person the standard of living does not rise. Starting roughly 1870, people dropped their fertility rates and the standard of living starts rising and we see it starts rising all along here.

If you take any dates from 1870 until today or until a few months ago anyway, per capita income is rising everywhere in Europe at different rates, but everywhere in Europe. Anything is for guessing, in everything that you can measure about Europe, changes in what we call monotonic in a single direction. Education goes up, urbanization goes up, the number of the year goes up, everything, women’s education goes up, anything that you can think of goes up, and fertility goes down.

So when you make graphs like that anything that you put on this axis is going up. This happened to be per capita income, it could be education, industrialization, urbanization, and fertility is falling during this period–so any two variables that you put together will give you similar graph to this and it tells you absolutely nothing except the only thing you can think of that–well there is no particular level of income which causes people to drop. When you get into the developing worlds the levels are way, way below, they’re out here and they start dropping their fertility levels.

They repeated this over and over again for all kinds of hypotheses and they always got the same kind of answer that nothing really correlated very well. Literacy is another answer that people started getting more worldly because they can read, and fertility began to fall and literacy rates were very low in France and Bulgaria, in Hungary but literacy was already very high in England and Wales when its fertility fell.

Urbanization, the British fertility declined when it began in Britain in 1870, 72% of the British were already in what are called conurbations, in urban settings, but in France when they started 100 years earlier, very, very low level. I won’t continue this but that Princeton project was a massive, massive study of all the–every socioeconomic variable that you can think of, all the theories, all the ten theories that you hear around and from your friends and think yourself, none of them really worked out as something you could really nail to fertility drops because of infant mortality drops, or income goes up, or education goes up, or any of these sorts of things. Next time we will continue and tell you at least what the Princeton people thought was the real cause.

[end of transcript]

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