Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Discussion Papers of Business and Economics,
University of Southern Denmark, Department of Business and Economics

No 14/2013: Accounting for Breakout in Britain: The Industrial Revolution through a Malthusian Lens

Alexander Tepper () and Karol Jan Borowiecki ()
Additional contact information
Alexander Tepper: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Postal: U.S.A., and University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Karol Jan Borowiecki: Department of Business and Economics, Postal: University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark

Abstract: This paper develops a simple dynamic model to examine the breakout from a Malthusian economy to a modern growth regime. It identifies several factors that determine the fastest rate at which the population can grow without engendering declining living standards; this is termed maximum sustainable population growth. We then apply the framework to Britain and find a dramatic increase in sustainable population growth at the time of the Industrial Revolution, well before the beginning of modern levels of income growth. The main contributions to the British breakout were technological improvements and structural change away from agricultural production, while coal, capital, and trade played a minor role.

Keywords: Industrial Revolution; Malthusian Dynamics; Maximum Sustainable Population Growth; Development; Demographics

JEL-codes: N13; N33; O10; O41; O52

52 pages, October 2, 2013

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