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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 / R
  • García Montero, Héctor / H

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

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 28738.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Latin American and Iberian Economic History 28.2(2010): pp. 253-277
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:28738

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Keywords: economic inequality; Iberian America; Viceroyal America’s economy;

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  1. 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.
  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, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(01), pages 167-174, March.
  3. Matthew J. Baker & Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Erwin H. Bulte, 2008. "Did History Breed Inequality? Colonial Factor Endowments and Modern Income Distribution," CER-ETH Economics working paper series, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich 08/86, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  4. Angeles, Luis, 2007. "Income inequality and colonialism," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 1155-1176, July.
  5. Baskes, Jeremy, 2005. "Colonial Institutions and Cross-Cultural Trade: Repartimiento Credit and Indigenous Production of Cochineal in Eighteenth-Century Oaxaca, Mexico," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(01), pages 186-210, March.
  6. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions," NBER Working Papers 14536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Rafael Dobado González, 2009. "Herencia colonial y desarrollo económico en Iberoamérica," Documentos de trabajo de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales 09-04, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales.
  8. Komlos, John, 2003. "An anthropometric history of early-modern France," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 159-189, August.
  9. Lopez , J. Humberto & Perry, Guillermo, 2008. "Inequality in Latin America : determinants and consequences," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4504, The World Bank.
  10. Carson, Scott Alan, 2005. "The biological standard of living in 19th century Mexico and in the American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 405-419, December.
  11. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Biological Measures of the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 129-152, Winter.
  12. A'Hearn, Brian, 2003. "Anthropometric Evidence on Living Standards in Northern Italy, 1730 1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(02), pages 351-381, June.
  13. 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), Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 2(3), pages 229-257, October.
  14. John Komlos & Joo Han Kim, . "Estimating Trends in Historical Heights," Articles by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich 25, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  15. John Komlos, 1989. "Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 2.
  16. 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, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(03), pages 721-741, September.
  17. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal Of Fortune: Geography And Institutions In The Making Of The Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
  18. 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, Economic History Society, vol. 64(3), pages 855-884, 08.
  19. 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, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 319-333, December.
  20. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Five Centuries of Latin American Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Cinnirella, Francesco, 2008. "Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 325-354, December.
  22. Carson, Scott Alan, 2007. "Mexican body mass index values in the late-19th-century American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 37-47, March.
  23. A'Hearn, Brian & Komlos, John, 2003. "Improvements in Maximum Likelihood Estimators of Truncated Normal Samples with Prior Knowledge of σ," Discussion Papers in Economics, University of Munich, Department of Economics 51, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Juif, Dácil-Tania & Baten, Joerg, 2012. "On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish conquest: Was there a "pre-colonial legacy"?," University of Tuebingen Working Papers in Economics and Finance 27, University of Tuebingen, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences.

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