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The dynamics of inequality in a newly settled, pre-industrial society: the case of the Cape Colony

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  • Johan Fourie

    ()
    (University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

  • Dieter von Fintel

    (University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa)

Abstract

One reason for the relatively poor development performance of many countries around the world today may be the high levels of inequality during and after colonisation. Evidence from colonies in the Americas suggests that skewed initial factor endowments could create small elites that own a disproportionate share of wealth, human capital and political power. The Cape Colony, founded in 1652 at the southern tip of Africa, presents a case where a mercantilist company (the Dutch East India Company) settled on the land and established a unique set of institutions, within which inequality evolved. This paper provides a long-run quantitative analysis of trends in asset-based inequality (using principal components analysis on tax inventories) during the seventeenth and eighteenth century, allowing, for the first time, a dynamic rather than static analysis of inequality trends in a newly settled and pre-industrial society over this period. While theory testing in other societies has been severely limited because of a scarcity of quantitative evidence, this study presents a history with evidence, enabling an evaluation of the Engerman--Sokoloff and other hypotheses.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC) in its journal Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History.

Volume (Year): 4 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 (October)
Pages: 229-267

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Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:4:y:2010:i:3:p:229-267

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Keywords: Settler societies; Wealth distribution; Inequality; Asset index; Institutions; Mercantilism; Dutch East India Company; South Africa;

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  1. Milanovic,Branko & Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2007. "Measuring ancient inequality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4412, The World Bank.
  2. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, 05.
  3. Willem H Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2008. "The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis," Working Papers 23/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  4. Jane M. Fry & Tim R.L. Fry & Keith R. McLaren, 1996. "Compositional Data Analysis and Zeros in Micro Data," Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre Working Papers g-120, Victoria University, Centre of Policy Studies/IMPACT Centre.
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  7. Chen, Chau-Nan & Tsaur, Tien-Wang & Rhai, Tong-Shieng, 1982. "The Gini Coefficient and Negative Income," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 473-78, November.
  8. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
  9. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, 06.
  10. Willem Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2008. "Explaining ship traffic fluctuations in the early Cape settlement: 1652–1793," Working Papers 01/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  11. Keen, Michael, 1986. "Zero Expenditures and the Estimation of Engel Curves," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 1(3), pages 277-86, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Piraino, Patrizio & Muller, Sean & Cilliers, Jeanne & Fourie, Johan, 2013. "The transmission of longevity across generations: The case of the settler Cape Colony," SALDRU Working Papers 113, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  2. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2012. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The national accounts of a slave-based society," Working Papers 0030, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  3. Jerven, Morten & Austin, Gareth & Green, Erik & Uche, Chibuike & Frankema, Ewout & Fourie, Johan & Inikori, Joseph & Moradi, Alexander & Hillbom, Ellen, 2012. "Moving Forward in African Economic History. Bridging the Gap Between Methods and Sources," Lund Papers in Economic History 124, Department of Economic History, Lund University.
  4. Johan Fourie, 2011. "Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795," Working Papers 21/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.

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