When did spouses begin to strongly match on economic ability? Many believe it is a modern development, a consequence of rising female employment and education levels. Using a large new dataset from Quebec, I find that marriage in Quebec was highly assortative as far back as the early 19th century. Moreover, assortment was not merely matching between similar families, but instead depended on the human capital of both men and women as individuals. Finally, I show that the abilities of women mattered as much as that of their husbands for the outcomes of their children. Strongly assortative marriage had always been important because the human capital of women mattered as much as that of men for marriage and mobility.
Twins Support the Absence of Parity-Dependent Fertility Control in Pretransition Populations with Gregory Clark and Neil Cummins. Demography. (2020).
A conclusion of the European Fertility Project in 1986 was that pretransition populations mostly displayed natural fertility, where parity-dependent birth control was absent. This conclusion has recently been challenged for England by new empirical results and has also been widely rejected by theorists of long-run economic growth, where pre-industrial fertility control is integral to most models. In this study, we use the accident of twin births to show that for three Western European–derived pre-industrial populations—namely, England (1730–1879), France (1670–1788), and Québec (1621–1835)—we find no evidence for parity-dependent control of marital fertility. If a twin was born in any of these populations, family size increased by 1 compared with families with a singleton birth at the same parity and mother age, with no reduction of subsequent fertility. Numbers of children surviving to age 14 also increased. Twin births also show no differential effect on fertility when they occurred at high parities; this finding is in contrast to populations where fertility is known to have been controlled by at least some families, such as in England, 1900–1949, where a twin birth increased average births per family by significantly less than 1.
Before the fall: Child quantity and quality in pre-demographic transition Quebec 1620–1850 .
While it plays a key role in theories of the transition to modern economic growth, there are few estimates of the quantity-quality trade-off from before the demographic transition. Using a uniquely suitable new dataset of vital records, I use two instrumental variables — twin births and aggregate infant mortality shocks — to estimate the trade-off in Quebec between 1620 and 1850. I find strong evidence of a trade–off between family size and child literacy, albeit a relatively modest one.
Commodities' Production Function and Human Capital: Evidence from Puerto Rico with Mateo Uribe-Castro.
Was There A Crisis? Living Standards in Lower Canada, 1775 to 1850 with Vincent Geloso.