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The payment of child allowances to laborers with large families was widespread in early nineteenth-century England. This paper tests Thomas Malthus's hypothesis that child allowances caused the birth rate to increase. A cross-sectional regression model is estimated to explain variations in birth rates across parishes in 1826-30. Birth rates are found to be related to child allowances, income, and the availability of housing, as Malthus contended. The paper concludes by examining the role played by the adoption of child allowances after 1795 in the fertility increase of the early nineteenth century.


Suggested Citation

Boyer, G. R. (1989). Malthus was right after all: Poor relief and birth rates in southeastern England [Electronic version]. Journal of Political Economy 97(1), 93-114.

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