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Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence

  • Dobado González, Rafael
  • García Montero, Héctor

This paper attempts at contributing to the ongoing debate on the historical roots of the high economic inequality of contemporary Iberian America. Basically empirical, our approach departs from mainstream scholarship. We show new data on wages and heights in several viceroyalties that: 1) suggest relatively medium to high levels of material welfare among the commoners in Bourbon Hispanic America; 2) allow us to build indexes of economic inequality. An international comparison of those indexes casts some doubts on the widely accepted view that Viceroyal America’s economy was exclusively based on extremely unequal or extractive institutions, as it has been popularized by the influential works by Engerman and Sokoloff (1994, 2002, 2005), Acemoglu et al. (2002).

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal Revista de Historia Económica.

Volume (Year): 28 (2010)
Issue (Month): 02 (September)
Pages: 253-277

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Handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:28:y:2010:i:02:p:253-277_00
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  8. Francesco Cinnirella, 2008. "On the road to industrialization: nutritional status in Saxony, 1690–1850," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 2(3), pages 229-257, October.
  9. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Heights and Human Welfare: Recent Developments and New Directions," NBER Working Papers 14536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  11. 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.
  12. A'Hearn, Brian & Komlos, John, 2003. "Improvements in Maximum Likelihood Estimators of Truncated Normal Samples with Prior Knowledge of σ," Discussion Papers in Economics 51, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  13. Lopez , J. Humberto & Perry, Guillermo, 2008. "Inequality in Latin America : determinants and consequences," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4504, The World Bank.
  14. Komlos, John, 2003. "An anthropometric history of early-modern France," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 159-189, August.
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  16. Baskes, Jeremy, 2005. "Colonial Institutions and Cross-Cultural Trade: Repartimiento Credit and Indigenous Production of Cochineal in Eighteenth-Century Oaxaca, Mexico," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(01), pages 186-210, March.
  17. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Five Centuries of Latin American Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Rafael Dobado González, 2009. "Herencia colonial y desarrollo económico en Iberoamérica," Documentos de trabajo de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales 09-04, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales.
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  22. Rafael Dobado & Gustavo A. Marrero, 2011. "The role of the Spanish imperial state in the mining‐led growth of Bourbon Mexico's economy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(3), pages 855-884, 08.
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  25. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2007. "Lost decades? Independence and latin America’s falling behind, 1820-1870," Working Papers in Economic History wp07-18, Universidad Carlos III, Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales.
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