The response of vital rates to harvest fluctuations in pre-industrial SwedenReport as inadecuate

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, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 245–268

First Online: 26 May 2016Received: 10 September 2015Accepted: 10 May 2016DOI: 10.1007-s11698-016-0144-7

Cite this article as: Edvinsson, R.B. Cliometrica 2017 11: 245. doi:10.1007-s11698-016-0144-7


This study examines whether there was a Malthusian equilibrium mechanism in Sweden in the pre-industrial period. A unique data set on harvests, deaths, marriages and births going back to 1630 is used to calculate cumulative elasticities of vital rates with respect to harvest. While earlier studies have mostly focused on the impact of real wage, this study uses the calorie content of per capita harvests as an indicator of living standards. It finds that there indeed was a response of vital rates to harvest fluctuations, but there were important structural breaks. While positive checks attenuated after 1720, preventive checks were strengthened. After 1870 preventive checks disappeared, and possibly also positive checks. The results are robust to different models and trend specifications, with one crucial difference: while the distributed lag model shows that positive checks were significant up to 1920, the SVAR model shows that positive checks disappeared after 1870.

KeywordsSweden Economic history Demography Agriculture Malthus Mortality Fertility JEL ClassificationN13 N34 N43 N53 

Author: Rodney Benjamin Edvinsson


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