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Women of an uncertain age: quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century

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  • Matthias Blum
  • Christopher L. Colvin
  • Laura McAtackney
  • Eoin McLaughlin

Abstract

Geary and Stark find that Ireland´s Post-Famine per capita GDP converged with British levels, and that this convergence was due to TFP growth rather than mass emigration. We devise new long-run measurements of human capital accumulation in Ireland in order to facilitate an assessment of sources of this TFP growth, including the relative contribution of men and women. We do so by exploiting the frequency at which age data heap at round ages, a measure that has been widely interpreted as an indicator of a population´s basic numeracy skills. Because Földvári, Van Leeuwen and Van Leeuwen-Li find that gender-specific trends in this measure derived from census returns are biased by who is reporting and recording the age information, we correct any computed numeracy trends using data from prison and workhouse registers, sources in which women self-reported their age. We find that rural Irish women born early in the nineteenth century had substantially lower levels of human capital than uncorrected census data would otherwise suggest. Our results are large in magnitude and economically significant. The speed at which women converged is consistent with Geary and Stark´s interpretation of Irish economic history; Ireland likely graduated to Europe´s club of advanced economies thanks in part to rapid advances in female human capital.
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  • Matthias Blum & Christopher L. Colvin & Laura McAtackney & Eoin McLaughlin, 2017. "Women of an uncertain age: quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 187-223, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:70:y:2017:i:1:p:187-223
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    Cited by:

    1. Francisco J. Beltrán Tapia & Alfonso Díez-Minguela & Julio Martinez-Galarraga & Daniel A. Tirado-Fabregat, 2018. "Two stories, one fate: Age-heaping and literacy in Spain, 1877-1930," Working Papers 0139, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2017. "Scarring and selection in the Great Irish Famine," QUCEH Working Paper Series 2017-08, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
    3. Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2020. "Death, demography and the denominator: New Influenza-18 mortality estimates for Ireland," SRERC Working Paper Series SRERCWP2020-2, University College Cork (UCC), Spatial and Regional Economic Research Centre (SRERC).
    4. Matthias Blum & Karl†Peter Krauss, 2018. "Age heaping and numeracy: looking behind the curtain," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 464-479, May.
    5. Èric Gómez-i-Aznar, 2019. "Human capital at the beginnings of the 18th century Catalonia: age-heaping and numeracy in a changing economy," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1904, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    6. A'Hearn, Brian & Delfino, Alexia & Nuvolari, Alessandro, 2019. "Cognition, Culture, and State Capacity: Age-Heaping in XIX Century Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 14261, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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