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Wealth inequality in Sweden, 1750–1900

Author

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  • Erik Bengtsson
  • Anna Missiaia
  • Mats Olsson
  • Patrick Svensson

Abstract

This article examines the evolution of wealth inequality in Sweden from 1750 to 1900, contributing both to the debate on early modern and modern inequality and to the general debate on the pattern of inequality during industrialization. The pre‐industrial period (1750–1850) is for the first time examined for Sweden at the national level. The study uses a random sample of probate inventories from urban and rural areas across the country, adjusted for age and social class. Estimates are provided for the years 1750, 1800, 1850, and 1900. The results show a gradual growth in inequality as early as the mid‐eighteenth century, with the sharpest rise in the late nineteenth century. Whereas the early growth in inequality was connected to changes in the countryside and in agriculture, the later growth was related to industrialization encompassing both compositional effects and strong wealth accumulation among the richest. The level of inequality in Sweden in 1750 was lower than for other western European countries, but by 1900 Sweden was just as unequal.

Suggested Citation

  • Erik Bengtsson & Anna Missiaia & Mats Olsson & Patrick Svensson, 2018. "Wealth inequality in Sweden, 1750–1900," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(3), pages 772-794, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ehsrev:v:71:y:2018:i:3:p:772-794
    DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12576
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ericsson, Johan & Molinder, Jakob, 2018. "A Workers’ Revolution in Sweden? Exploring Economic Growth and Distributional Change with Detailed Data on Construction Workers’ Wages, 1831–1900," Lund Papers in Economic History 181, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    2. Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Bengtsson, Erik & Olsson, Mats, 2018. "Peasant Aristocrats? Wealth and Social Status of Swedish Farmer Parliamentarians 1769–1895," Lund Papers in Economic History 175, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    4. Bengtsson, Erik, 2019. "Reconsidering the Role of Farmer Politics in Swedish Democratization," Lund Papers in Economic History 205, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    5. Bengtsson, Erik & Missiaia, Anna & Olsson, Mats & Svensson, Patrick, 2017. "The Wealth of the Richest: Inequality and the Nobility in Sweden, 1750–1900," Lund Papers in Economic History 161, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    6. , Stone Center & Alfani, Guido & Gierok, Victoria & Schaff, Felix, 2020. "Economic Inequality in Preindustrial Germany, ca. 1300 – 1850," SocArXiv 8qb7x, Center for Open Science.
    7. Kerstin Enflo & Anna Missiaia, 2020. "Between Malthus and the industrial take‐off: regional inequality in Sweden, 1571–1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 73(2), pages 431-454, May.
    8. Bengtsson, Erik & Prado, Svante, 2019. "The rise of the middle class: The income gap between salaried employees and workers in Sweden, 1830-1935," Lund Papers in Economic History 186, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    9. Kathryn E. Gary & Cristina Victoria Radu, 2019. "The impact of border changes and protectionism on real wages in early modern Scania," Working Papers 0166, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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