Malthusian pressures: empirical evidence from a frontier economy (forthcoming)

One of my papers, co-authored with Vadim Kufenko of the University of Hohenheim, has received the final green light for publication in the Journal of Population Research. The paper is titled : Malthusian pressures – empirical evidence from a frontier economy.

This is, I believe, a very significant paper for Canadian historians. Simply put, it uses new price data to measure the effects of changes in real prices upon mortality and births to test for the existence of population pressures on economic performance prior to 1860 in Canada. Up until now, the dominant view has been that the largest colonies suffered from “too much people for too little fertile lands”. In short, the dominant view was “Malthusian” whereby more population means lower real wages and more poverty. The Malthusian prediction is that fertility should drop and mortality should rise as a result of too much population (put very simply here, but expounded in more nuances in the paper). Kufenko and myself contest this narrative by showing that the traditional stipulations and predictions of population pressures did not materialize. We propose that improvements in productivity and economic organization had largely beneficial effects that countered the Malthusian pressures. The result throws into doubt the claim that Canada suffered a deep and prolonged economic crisis during the first five decades of the 19th century and it eliminates the Malthusian channel as an explanation of economic events in early Canadian history.

The paper can be read here at ACADEMIA until it is published formally in the Journal of Population Research

***Note: I wish to thank the anonymous reviewers, my co-authors and the participants of seminars at HEC Montreal and the University of Hohenheim for their comments.

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