Vital events and economic conditions: testing Malthusian theory on northern Italy’s historical data (1650-1860)

Anna Di Bartolomeo, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Giulia Ferrari, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Enrica Lapucci, Università di Roma "La Sapienza"
Agnese Vitali, Università Bocconi

This paper investigates whether the Malthusian theory holds in Northern Italy between 1650 and 1860. We aim at detecting how macro socioeconomic changes affect demographic behaviours, analyzing the relationship between vital rates and economic trends. We rely on two different data sources: vital rates come from a reconstruction of population trends for the period of interest while, in lack of data on the agricultural production, we use the series of wheat prices as a proxy of general wellness conditions. By means of a descriptive comparison between crude vital rates and price trends we document a strong correlation between wheat prices and birth, mortality and nuptiality rates. Our results, furthermore confirmed by a polynomial distributed lag model, do support first the existence of preventive and then of positive checks. We thus conclude that the Malthusian theory is able to explain the demographic development in Northern Italy for the period here analyzed.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Contexts