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Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence

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  • Dobado González, Rafael
  • García Montero, Héctor

Abstract

This paper attempts at contributing to the ongoing debate on the historical roots of the high economic inequality of contemporary Iberian America. Basically empirical, our approach departs from mainstream scholarship. We show new data on wages and heights in several viceroyalties that: 1) suggest relatively medium to high levels of material welfare among the commoners in Bourbon Hispanic America; 2) allow us to build indexes of economic inequality. An international comparison of those indexes casts some doubts on the widely accepted view that Viceroyal America’s economy was exclusively based on extremely unequal or extractive institutions, as it has been popularized by the influential works by Engerman and Sokoloff (1994, 2002, 2005), Acemoglu et al. (2002).

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Revista de Historia Económica.

Volume (Year): 28 (2010)
Issue (Month): 02 (September)
Pages: 253-277

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Handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:28:y:2010:i:02:p:253-277_00

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  2. Margo, Robert A. & Steckel, Richard H., 1983. "Heights of Native-Born Whites During the Antebellum Period," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(01), pages 167-174, March.
  3. Komlos, John, 2003. "An anthropometric history of early-modern France," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 159-189, August.
  4. Cinnirella, Francesco, 2008. "Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 325-354, December.
  5. Bruhn, Miriam & Gallego, Francisco A., 2008. "Good, bad, and ugly colonial activities : studying development across the Americas," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4641, The World Bank.
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  7. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Francesco Cinnirella, 2008. "On the road to industrialization: nutritional status in Saxony, 1690–1850," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 2(3), pages 229-257, October.
  9. Rafael Dobado & Gustavo A. Marrero, 2011. "The role of the Spanish imperial state in the mining‐led growth of Bourbon Mexico's economy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(3), pages 855-884, 08.
  10. L Angeles, 2005. "Income Inequality and Colonialism," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 66, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
  11. Komlos, John, 2005. "On English Pygmies and Giants: the Physical Stature of English Youth in the late-18th and early-19th Centuries," Discussion Papers in Economics 573, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  12. Carson, Scott Alan, 2005. "The biological standard of living in 19th century Mexico and in the American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 405-419, December.
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  15. Steckel, Richard H., 1986. "A Peculiar Population: The Nutrition, Health, and Mortality of American Slaves from Childhood to Maturity," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(03), pages 721-741, September.
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  18. Baten, Joerg & Pelger, Ines & Twrdek, Linda, 2009. "The anthropometric history of Argentina, Brazil and Peru during the 19th and early 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 319-333, December.
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  22. Rafael Dobado González, 2009. "Herencia colonial y desarrollo económico en Iberoamérica," Documentos de trabajo de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales 09-04, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales.
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Cited by:
  1. Juif, Dácil-Tania & Baten, Joerg, 2013. "On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish Conquest. Was there a “Pre-Colonial Legacy”?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 227-241.

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