Accounting for Breakout in Britain: The Industrial Revolution Through a Malthusian Lens

53 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2013

See all articles by Alexander Tepper

Alexander Tepper

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Karol Borowiecki

University of Southern Denmark

Date Written: September 1, 2013

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, maximum sustainable population growth, Malthusian dynamics, development, demographics

JEL Classification: N13, N33, O41, O52

Suggested Citation

Tepper, Alexander and Borowiecki, Karol, Accounting for Breakout in Britain: The Industrial Revolution Through a Malthusian Lens (September 1, 2013). FRB of New York Staff Report No. 639, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2335051 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2335051

Alexander Tepper (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of New York ( email )

33 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10045
United States

Karol Borowiecki

University of Southern Denmark ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000
Denmark

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