Between Conquest and Independence: Real Wages and Demographic Change in Spanish America, 1530-1820
AbstractOn the basis of a newly constructed dataset, this paper presents long-term series of the price levels, nominal wages, and real wages in Spanish Latin America – more specifically in Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina – between ca. 1530 and ca. 1820. It synthesizes the work of scholars who have collected and published data on individual cities and periods, and presents comparable indices of real wages and prices in the colonial period that give a reasonable guide to trends in the long run. We show that wages and prices were on average much higher than in Western Europe or in Asia, a reflection of the low value of silver that must have had consequences for competitiveness of the Latin American economies. Labour scarcity was the second salient feature of Spanish Latin America and resulted in real wages much above subsistence and in some cases (Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina) comparable to levels in Northwestern Europe. For Mexico, this was caused by the dramatic decline of the population after the Conquest. For Bolivia, the driving force was the boom in silver mining in Potosi that created a huge demand for labour. In the case of Argentina, low population density was a pre-colonial feature. Perhaps due to a different pattern of depopulation, the real wages of other regions (Peru, Colombia, Chile) were much lower, and only increased above subsistence during the first half of the 18th century. These results are consistent with independent evidence on biological standards of living and with estimates of GDP per capita at the beginning of the 19th century.?
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History in its series Working Papers with number 0020.
Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2011
Date of revision:
Wages; Prices; Latin America; Early Modern Period;
Other versions of this item:
- 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.
- NEP-ALL-2012-01-25 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2012-01-25 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-LAB-2012-01-25 (Labour Economics)
- NEP-LAM-2012-01-25 (Central & South America)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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CEI Working Paper Series
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Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
- On the Explanations of How Latin America Fell Behind
by bearodr in NEP-HIS blog on 2012-02-13 12:19:28
- Robert Allen, 2013. "American Exceptionalism as a Problem in Global History," Economics Series Working Papers 689, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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