a1 University of Connecticut
The central fact of the demographic history of early North America is rapid growth. Both Canada and the white population of the English colonies experienced increases of 2½ percent per year during the eighteenth century. Seventeenth-century rates, beginning from a low base and more influenced by immigration, were even higher. In contrast, the expansion of population in early modern Europe rarely exceeded 1 percent per annum over an extended period. Since Franklin and Malthus, interpretations of early American demography have centered on the high fertility associated with near universal marriage for women at a low average age. The extremely youthful population, high dependency ratio, and one of the largest mean census family sizes ever recorded all follow from the high level of fertility.