This paper presents a simple model of preindustrial population dynamics, one that brings together the theoretical insights of Thomas Robert Malthus and Ester Boserup. Central to the model is the concept of well-being, which refers to those aspects of physical condition that influence an individual's capacity to survive and reproduce. Changes in the mean and variance in well-being are modeled, first, under a fixed system of food production and, second, in the face of subsistence change. Among other things, the model suggests that the long-term effects of economic change on the distribution of well-being are negligible, although both the mean and variance are likely to increase temporarily in the short run. The model is used to explore several issues of enduring importance to demographic anthropology, including the nature of population regulation, the relationship between population pressure and economic change, and the demographic consequences of the transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture.
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