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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

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

  • Dieter von Fintel

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Stellenbosch)

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 owned 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) settles the land and establishes a unique set of institutions within which inequality and development evolve. This paper provides a long-run quantitative analysis of trends in asset-based inequality (using Principle 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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File URL: http://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2009/wp172009/wp-17-2009.pdf
File Function: First version, 2009
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Paper provided by Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 17/2009.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:sza:wpaper:wpapers90

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Keywords: South Africa; settler societies; Kuznets; income distribution; asset index; institutions; mercantilism; Dutch East India Company;

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References

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  1. Milanovic, Branko & Lindert, Peter & Williamson, Jeffrey, 2007. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," MPRA Paper 5388, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Jane Fry & Tim Fry & Keith McLaren, 2000. "Compositional data analysis and zeros in micro data," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(8), pages 953-959.
  3. Feinstein, Charles, 1988. "The Rise and Fall of the Williamson Curve," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 699-729, September.
  4. 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.
  5. Boshoff, Willem H. & Fourie, Johan, 2010. "The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape Colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 469-503, December.
  6. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, 06.
  7. Champernowne, D G, 1974. "A Comparison of Measures of Inequality of Income Distribution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 787-816, December.
  8. Kuznets, Simon, 1973. "Modern Economic Growth: Findings and Reflections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 247-58, June.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
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Cited by:
  1. Johan Fourie & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2013. "GDP in the Dutch Cape Colony: The National Accounts of a Slave-Based Society," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 81(4), pages 467-490, December.
  2. Johan Fourie, 2011. "Slaves as capital investment in the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1795," Working Papers 21/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
  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," African Economic History Working Paper 1/2012, African Economic History Network.
  4. 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.

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