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Wealth inequality in Sweden, 1750–1900

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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
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/ehr.12576
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roine, Jesper & Waldenström, Daniel, 2014. "Long-Run Trends in the Distribution of Income and Wealth," Working Paper Series 1021, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    2. Steckel, Richard H. & Moehling, Carolyn M., 2001. "Rising Inequality: Trends In The Distribution Of Wealth In Industrializing New England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(01), pages 160-183, March.
    3. Lopez-Feldman, Alejandro, 2006. "Decomposing inequality and obtaining marginal effects," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 6(1), pages 1-6.
    4. Jesper Roine & Daniel Waldenström, 2009. "Wealth Concentration over the Path of Development: Sweden, 1873-2006," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 111(1), pages 151-187, March.
    5. Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
    6. Jones, Alice Hanson, 1972. "Wealth Estimates for the New England Colonies about 1770," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 98-127, March.
    7. Lindert, Peter H, 1986. "Unequal English Wealth since 1670," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1127-1162, December.
    8. Acemoglu, Daron & Robinson, James A, 2002. "The Political Economy of the Kuznets Curve," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(2), pages 183-203, June.
    9. Metin M. Cosgel & Bogac A. Ergene & Atabey Kaygun, 2013. "A temporal analysis of wealth in eighteenth-century Ottoman Kastamonu," Working papers 2013-03, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics, revised Mar 2013.
    10. Lee Soltow, 1989. "The rich and the destitute in Sweden, 1805-1855: a test of Tocqueville's inequality hypotheses," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 42(1), pages 43-63, February.
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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. 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.
    3. Enflo, Kerstin & Missiaia, Anna, 2017. "Between Malthus and the industrial take-off: regional inequality in Sweden, 1571-1850," Lund Papers in Economic History 168, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.

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