MPIDR Working Paper

The population history of Germany: research strategy and preliminary results

Pfister, U., Fertig, G.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2010-035, 72 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (Dezember 2010)
Open Access


The paper presents the project of an aggregative reconstruction of the population of Ger-many from the sixteenth century to 1840, when official statistics began to provide complete coverage of all German states. The creation of estimates of population size and of annual series of the crude birth, marriage and death rates rests on three types of sources: First, pairs of partial censuses of hearths, taxpayers, communicants, etc. for the same regional aggregate at two different points in time are used to derive annual growth rates of popula-tion. This information is used to derive approximate estimates of total population size in ten-year intervals. Second, to develop aggregate series of vital events the project aims to analyse approximately 450 to 600 parish registers. Third, the project makes use of proto-statistical material on population size and the number of vital events that states began to collect selectively from c. 1740. On the basis of material from Gehrmann (2000), from published studies on c. 140 parishes and from selected other sources we construct a pre-liminary dataset for the period 1730–1840. Our cumulative rates of natural increase are broadly consistent with independent estimates of population growth. We use these series for two explorative analyses: First, on the basis of inverse projection we generate tentative estimates of the gross reproduction rate, of life expectancy and the dependency ratio. The results suggest an increase of the life expectancy and of the dependency ratio, the latter being the result of persistent population growth. Second, by adding a real wage series we study Malthusian adaptation with two methods, namely, VAR and time varying cumulated lag regression. The results consistently suggest the presence of both the preventive and the positive check during the eighteenth century. Whereas the preventive check persisted into the nineteenth century, mortality became exogenous in the early nineteenth century. Par-ticularly the 1810s turn out as a period of major change in at least three dimensions: real wages increased, life expectancies rose, and the positive check disappeared. Thus, Germany became a non-Malthusian economy well before the advent of industrialisation. Additional information suggests that market integration was a driving force behind this process.
Schlagwörter: Deutschland, history, population
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.