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Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738-1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan, and India

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  • Allen, Robert C.
  • Bassino, Jean-Pascal
  • Ma, Debin
  • Moll-Murata, Christine
  • Zanden, Jan Luiten van

Abstract

The paper develops data on the history of wages and prices in Beijing, Canton, Suzhou/Shanghai in China from the eighteenth century to the twentieth and compare them with leading cities in Europe, Japan and India in terms of nominal wages, the cost of living, and the standard of living. In the eighteenth century, the real income of building workers in Asia was similar to that of workers in the backward parts of Europe but far behind that in the leading economies in northwestern Europe. Real wages declined in China in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and rose slowly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth with little cumulative change for two hundred years. The income disparities of the early twentieth century were due to long run stagnation in China combined with industrialization in Japan and Europe.

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Paper provided by Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University in its series CEI Working Paper Series with number 2009-03.

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Length: 60 p.
Date of creation: Oct 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hit:hitcei:2009-03

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  1. Feuerwerker, Albert, 1970. "Handicraft and Manufactured Cotton Textiles in China, 1871–1910," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(02), pages 338-378, June.
  2. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
  3. "Bassino, Jean‐Pascal" & "Ma, Debin" & "Saito, Osamu", 2005. "Levels of Real Wages in Historic China, Japan and Southern Europe, 1700-1920―A Review of Evidence―," Economic Review, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 56(4), pages 348-369, January.
  4. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  5. van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 175-197, August.
  6. Li, Lillian M., 2000. "Integration and Disintegration in North China's Grain Markets, 1738–1911," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 665-699, September.
  7. Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2009. "The skill premium and the ‘Great Divergence’," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(01), pages 121-153, April.
  8. Li, Lillian M., 2000. "Integration and Disintegration in North China's Grain Markets, 1738 1911," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 665-699, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Ward, W. Peter, 2013. "Stature, migration and human welfare in South China, 1850–1930," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 488-501.
  2. Arroyo Abad, Leticia & Davies, Elwyn & van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2012. "Between conquest and independence: Real wages and demographic change in Spanish America, 1530–1820," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 149-166.
  3. Eric Schneider, 2012. "Real Wages and the Family: Adjusting Real Wages to Changing Demography in Pre-Modern England," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _099, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  4. Orley Ashenfelter, 2012. "Comparing Real Wage Rates," Working Papers 1384, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880-1965," Working Papers 0024, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  6. Robert Allen & Robert C. Allen, 2011. "Technology and the Great Divergence," Economics Series Working Papers 548, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  7. Allen, Robert C., 2012. "Technology and the great divergence: Global economic development since 1820," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 1-16.
  8. Tracy Dennison & Steven Nafziger, 2011. "Micro-Perspectives on Living Standards in Nineteenth-Century Russia," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-07, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  9. Sophia du Plessis & Stan du Plessis, 2012. "Happy in the service of the Company: the purchasing power of VOC salaries at the Cape in the 18th century," Working Papers 01/2012, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  10. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  11. Rafael Dobado-Gonzáles & Héctor García-Montero, 2012. "Neither So Low Nor So Short: Wages and Heights in Bourbon Spanish America from an International Comparative Perspective," Working Papers 0014, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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