The European marriage pattern (EMP) is suspected to have played a key role in Western early economic development. Recently, the EMP has been reappraised with regard to economic fluctuations. However, suspected positive mechanisms are backed by little evidence. For a southern French town, we reconstitute most families and build accurate measurements of economic conditions. Combined with marriage contracts (systematic in this written-law area), we control for wealth, Stem household settlement and social status of father and husband for a representative sample of marriages. Studying individual behaviors rather than aggregated values, we clarify the operation of the EMP system: bad economic conditions resulted in later female age at marriage, which had two positive consequences: fewer children, thus adjusting the population level; a smaller age difference between spouses, suggesting greater agency for women within the couple, whereas the existing literature only stressed stable high status for women within the society characterized by the EMP. A supposed positive effect on human capital is not significant.
European marriage pattern, Economic development, Family system, Population, Gender gap, Fertility
J12, J13, N33, O12