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Living Standards During the Industrial Revolution: An Economist's Guide

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  • Hans-Joachim Voth

Abstract

The Industrial Revolution is a topic of renewed interest for growth economists. After the first wave of "new growth" theory that addressed the causes of sustained increases in productivity, more attention has been given to an important additional stylized fact: that rapid growth itself is new in historical terms. A radical discontinuity separates thousands of years of by and large stagnant living standards from the industrial era. Increasingly in the last few years, models have attempted to capture these long-run dynamics to try to explain how the world changed from a state where growth was fleeting and limited to one where it has become permanent and decisive. At the same time, economic historians have re-evaluated changes in living standards during the British Industrial Revolution (the canonical case). The new picture that emerges has become increasingly consistent over the last decade, and it differs drastically from earlier descriptions. This paper briefly summarizes the two literatures, contrasts the results obtained, and makes suggestions for a new set of "stylized facts" that could usefully guide future theoretical and empirical work on the Industrial Revolution.

Suggested Citation

  • Hans-Joachim Voth, 2003. "Living Standards During the Industrial Revolution: An Economist's Guide," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 221-226, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:93:y:2003:i:2:p:221-226
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282803321947083
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. N. F. R. Crafts & C. K. Harley, 1992. "Output growth and the British industrial revolution: a restatement of the Crafts-Harley view," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 45(4), pages 703-730, November.
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    7. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
    8. Antonio Ciccone, 1996. "Falling real wages during an industrial revolution," Economics Working Papers 195, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Fernihough, Alan & McGovern, Mark E., 2015. "Physical stature decline and the health status of the elderly population in England," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 30-44.
    2. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Ahmed S. Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2008. "Luddites and the Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 14484, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nico Voigtländer & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2006. "Why England? Demographic factors, structural change and physical capital accumulation during the Industrial Revolution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 319-361, December.
    4. Kevin H. O’Rourke & Ahmed S. Rahman & Alan M. Taylor, 2007. "Trade, Knowledge and the Industrial Revolution," Development Working Papers 230, Centro Studi Luca d'Agliano, University of Milano.
    5. Takanori Ago & Tadashi Morita & Takatoshi Tabuchi & Kazuhiro Yamamoto, 2017. "Endogenous labor supply and international trade," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 13(1), pages 73-94, March.
    6. Galor, Oded, 2005. "From Stagnation to Growth: Unified Growth Theory," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 171-293 Elsevier.
    7. Strulik, Holger & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2007. "The Simplest Unified Growth Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 6528, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Ciarli, Tommaso & Valente, Marco, 2016. "The complex interactions between economic growth and market concentration in a model of structural change," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 38-54.
    9. Paul R. Bergin & Reuven Glick & Alan M. Taylor, 2017. "Productivity, Tradability, and the Long-Run Price Puzzle," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: International Macroeconomic Interdependence, chapter 8, pages 211-248 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    10. Mehdi Senouci, 2013. "Direction of technical change, endogenous fertility, and patterns of growth," Working Papers hal-01206021, HAL.
    11. Howard Bodenhorn & Timothy W. Guinnane & Thomas A. Mroz, 2013. "Problems of Sample-selection Bias in the Historical Heights Literature: A Theoretical and Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 1023, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
    12. Holger Strulik & Jacob Weisdorf, 2008. "Population, food, and knowledge: a simple unified growth theory," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 195-216, September.
    13. Ramon Ramon-Muñoz & Josep-Maria Ramon-Muñoz, 2015. "Height and Industrialisation in a City in Catalonia during the Nineteenth Century," UB Economics Working Papers 2015/334, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    14. Oded Galor, 2011. "Unified Growth Theory," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9477.

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