Why do we experience economic growth? As our economies develop, why do we expect long-term living standards to rise? Such progress is not an immutable law of economic activity. On the contrary, economic growth (on a per capita basis) is a relatively recent phenomenon.
For most of human history, strong economic performance didn’t translate to sustained increases in material standards of living (for which we can use output per capita as a proxy). Rather, a strong economy gave rise to population growth: when times were good, families had more children. It was only during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (at least in the developed world) that this dynamic began to change. Why?→