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Poor, hungry and ignorant: Numeracy and the impact of high food prices in industrializing Britain, 1780-1850

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  • Jörg Baten
  • Dorothee Crayen
  • Joachim Voth

    ()

Abstract

This paper uses the ability to recall one’s age correctly as an indicator of numeracy. We show that low levels of nutrition impaired numeracy in industrializing England, 1780-1850. Numeracy declined markedly among those born during the war years, especially where wheat was dear. England’s nascent welfare state mitigated the negative effect of high food prices on cognitive skills. Nutrition during early development mattered for labor market outcomes: individuals born in periods or countries with high age heaping were more likely to sort into occupations with limited intellectual requirements.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1120.

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Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision: Dec 2011
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1120

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Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

Related research

Keywords: Nutrition; cognitive development; age heaping; numeracy; occupational choice; Industrial Revolution; social spending; poverty traps; effects of war.;

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  1. A'Hearn, Brian & Baten, Jörg & Crayen, Dorothee, 2009. "Quantifying Quantitative Literacy: Age Heaping and the History of Human Capital," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 783-808, September.
  2. Feinstein, Charles H., 1998. "Pessimism Perpetuated: Real Wages and the Standard of Living in Britain during and after the Industrial Revolution," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(03), pages 625-658, September.
  3. Nicola Persico & Andrew Postlewaite & Dan Silverman, 2004. "The Effect of Adolescent Experience on Labor Market Outcomes: The Case of Height," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1019-1053, October.
  4. Garett Jones & W. Schneider, 2006. "Intelligence, Human Capital, and Economic Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(1), pages 71-93, 03.
  5. Richard J. Murnane & John B. Willett & Frank Levy, 1995. "The Growing Importance of Cognitive Skills in Wage Determination," NBER Working Papers 5076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2006. "Stature and status: Height, ability, and labor market outcomes," Working Papers 232, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Robert W. Fogel, 1994. "Economic Growth, Population Theory, and Physiology: The Bearing of Long-Term Processes on the Making of Economic Policy," NBER Working Papers 4638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Horrell, Sara, 1996. "Home Demand and British Industrialization," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(03), pages 561-604, September.
  9. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
  10. Jeffrey S. Zax & Daniel I. Rees, 2002. "IQ, Academic Performance, Environment, and Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(4), pages 600-616, November.
  11. Jacks, David S., 2011. "Foreign wars, domestic markets: England, 1793–1815," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 277-311, August.
  12. 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, number 2, November.
  13. 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.
  14. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1992. "Quantitative Literacy and the Likelihood of Employment among Young Adults in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(2), pages 313-328.
  15. Boyer, George R., 1986. "The Old Poor Law and the Agricultural Labor Market in Southern England: An Empirical Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 113-135, March.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Enquete: o melhor título de paper
    by Leonardo Monasterio in Blog do Leonardo Monasterio on 2009-02-28 11:31:00
  2. Poll: the best title for an Economics paper
    by Leonardo Monasterio in Leonardo Monasterio's Blog on 2009-02-28 11:40:00
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Cited by:
  1. Jörg Baten & Johan Fourie, 2012. "Slave numeracy in the Cape Colony and comparative development in the eighteenth century," Working Papers 270, Economic Research Southern Africa.

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