Research in Economic History: Volume 34
Table of contents(7 chapters)
Using archival and primary source evidence, this chapter introduces the first real wage series from 1891 to 1930 for Brazil’s most important immigrant and industrial city, São Paulo. This is the first price series, nominal wage series, and real wage series for the city that covers the duration of the Old Republic. While scholars look to Rio de Janeiro evidence to compare Brazil’s cost of living to other southern cone and immigrant-receiving countries, it is preferable to use evidence from the primary destination city. Price deviations between the two cities underscore the need for these series. The results show foodstuff prices increased steadily over the period and more dramatically in the period during and after World War I. Hedonic wage regressions show hourly wages for unskilled, low-skilled, and medium-skilled workers did not increase accordingly. While the decline in real wages tapered off in the 1920s, real wages across skill levels did not recover to prewar levels. This new index suggests the city of São Paulo’s labor market was more integrated with Buenos Aires’s than with Rio de Janeiro’s and that Paulistano real wages did not recover in the 1920s to the extent that they did in other southern cone cities. Given these results, the puzzle as to why migrants continued to flock to the city prove more intriguing. The results also suggest that Vargas-era labor legislation had the potential to greatly improve the lives of the city’s working class, perhaps more so than in other cities.
Saving is essential to the health of economies and households, yet relatively little scholarship investigates saving behaviors among the urban working class in the nineteenth century. This chapter uses five surveys of industrial workers in 1880s New Jersey, an analysis of which reveals sophisticated saving behaviors consistent with life-cycle and precautionary theories. The mean saving rate was between 8% and 12% of annual income. Younger households saved less than older households. Householders with longer expected careers, on average, saved less. Life insurance and fraternal societies were the most popular saving vehicles, but workers also used savings banks and building and loan associations, alone and in combination.
This chapter uses a dataset of heights calculated from the femurs of skeletal remains to explore the development of stature in England across the last two millennia. We find that heights increased during the Roman period and then steadily fell during the “Dark Ages” in the early medieval period. At the turn of the first millennium, heights grew rapidly, but after 1200 they started to decline coinciding with the agricultural depression, the Great Famine, and the Black Death. Then they recovered to reach a plateau which they maintained for almost 300 years, before falling on the eve of industrialization. The data show that average heights in England in the early nineteenth century were comparable to those in Roman times, and that average heights reported between 1400 and 1700 were similar to those of the twentieth century. This chapter also discusses the association of heights across time with some potential determinants and correlates (real wages, inequality, food supply, climate change, and expectation of life), showing that in the long run heights change with these variables, and that in certain periods, notably the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the associations are observable over the shorter run as well. We also examine potential biases surrounding the use of skeletal remains.
We find evidence that the runs on banks and trust companies in the Panic of 1907 were linked to the Bank of England’s contractionary monetary policy actions taken in 1906 and 1907 through the medium of copper prices. Results from our vector autoregressive models and copper stockpile data support our argument that a copper commodity price channel may have been active in transmitting the Bank’s policy to the New York markets. Archival evidence suggests that the plunge in copper prices may have partially triggered both the initiation and the failure of an attempt to corner the shares of United Copper, and in turn, the bank and trust company runs related to that transaction’s failure. We suggest that the substantial short-term uncertainties accompanying the development of the copper-intensive electrical and telecommunications industries likely played a role in the plunge in copper prices. Additionally, we find evidence that the copper price transmission mechanism was also likely active in five other countries that year. While we do not argue that copper caused the 1907 crisis, we suggest that it was an active policy transmission channel amplifying the classic effect that was already spreading through the money market channel. If the bust in copper prices partially triggered the 1907 panic, then it provides additional evidence that contractionary monetary policy may have had an unintended, adverse consequence of contributing to a bank panic and, therefore, supports other recent findings that monetary policy deliberations might benefit from considering the policy impact on asset prices.
This chapter does three things. First, it estimates regional gross domestic product (GDP) for three different geographical levels in Switzerland (97 micro regions, 16 labor market basins, and 3 large regions). Second, it analyzes the evolution of regional inequality relying on a heuristic model inspired by Williamson (1965), which features an initial growth impulse in one or several core regions and subsequent diffusion. Third, it uses index number theory to decompose regional inequality into three different effects: sectoral structure, productivity, and comparative advantage.
The results can be summarized as follows: As a consequence of the existence of multiple core regions, Swiss regional inequality has been comparatively low at higher geographical levels. Spatial diffusion of economic growth occurred across different parts of the country and within different labor market regions. This resulted in a bell-shaped evolution of regional inequality at the micro regional level and convergence at higher geographical levels. In early and in late stages of the development process, productivity differentials were the main drivers of inequality, whereas economic structure was determinant between 1888 and 1941. The poorest regions suffered from comparative disadvantage, that is, they were specialized in the vary sector (agriculture), where their relative productivity was comparatively lowest.
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