IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/cup/reveco/v28y2010i02p253-277_00.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

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

Author

Listed:
  • Dobado González, Rafael
  • García Montero, Héctor

Abstract

This paper attempts to contribute to the ongoing debate on the historical roots of the high economic inequality of contemporary Iberian America. Our approach, which is basically empirical, departs from the 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; and (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 and Acemoglu et al. Este trabajo pretende contribuir al debate sobre las causas históricas de la alta desigualdad económica en la Iberoamérica contemporánea y lo hace en forma básicamente empírica, lo que es bastante inusual. En él se muestran nuevos datos sobre salarios y estaturas de varios virreinatos que: (1) sugieren niveles de bienestar material relativamente medios o altos para grupos no privilegiados de la Hispanoamérica borbónica; y (2) permiten la construcción de índices de desigualdad económica. La comparación internacional de esos índices arroja dudas sobre la verosimilitud del ampliamente extendido supuesto de que la economía de la América española se basada exclusivamente en instituciones extremadamente desiguales o extractivas, que ha sido popularizada por los influyentes trabajos de Engerman y Sokoloff y Acemoglu et al.

Suggested Citation

  • Dobado González, Rafael & García Montero, Héctor, 2010. "Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence," Revista de Historia Económica / Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(2), pages 253-277, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:28:y:2010:i:02:p:253-277_00
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.cambridge.org/core/product/identifier/S0212610910000108/type/journal_article
    File Function: link to article abstract page
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. John Komlos, 1989. "Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History," Books by John Komlos, Department of Economics, University of Munich, number 2, September.
    2. Komlos, John, 2003. "An anthropometric history of early-modern France," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 159-189, August.
    3. Bruhn, Miriam & Gallego, Francisco A., 2008. "Good, bad, and ugly colonial activities : studying development across the Americas," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4641, The World Bank.
    4. 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.
    5. Angeles, Luis, 2007. "Income inequality and colonialism," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 1155-1176, July.
    6. Matthew J. Baker & Christa N. Brunnschweiler & Erwin H. Bulte, 2008. "Did History Breed Inequality? Colonial Factor Endowments and Modern Income Distribution," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 08/86, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    7. 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.
    8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    9. Lopez , J. Humberto & Perry, Guillermo, 2008. "Inequality in Latin America : determinants and consequences," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4504, The World Bank.
    10. Prados de la Escosura, Leandro, 2007. "Lost decades? : independence and latin America’s falling behind, 1820-1870," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp07-18, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    11. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    12. Baten, Joerg & Pelger, Ines & Twrdek, Linda, 2009. "The anthropometric history of Argentina, Brazil and Peru during the 19th and early 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 319-333, December.
    13. 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, August.
    14. Carson, Scott Alan, 2007. "Mexican body mass index values in the late-19th-century American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 37-47, March.
    15. 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.
    16. Rafael Dobado González & Hector García, 2009. "Neither so low nor so short! Wages and heights in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries colonial Hispanic America," Working Papers del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 0914, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    17. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Biological Measures of the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 129-152, Winter.
    18. Steckel, Richard H., 1986. "A Peculiar Population: The Nutrition, Health, and Mortality of American Slaves from Childhood to Maturity," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(3), pages 721-741, September.
    19. 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(1), pages 186-210, March.
    20. A'Hearn, Brian, 2003. "Anthropometric Evidence on Living Standards in Northern Italy, 1730–1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 351-381, June.
    21. 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.
    22. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "Five Centuries of Latin American Inequality," NBER Working Papers 15305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. Margo, Robert A. & Steckel, Richard H., 1983. "Heights of Native-Born Whites During the Antebellum Period," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(1), pages 167-174, March.
    24. Cinnirella, Francesco, 2008. "Optimists or pessimists? A reconsideration of nutritional status in Britain, 1740–1865," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(3), pages 325-354, December.
    25. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2009. "History without Evidence: Latin American Inequality since 1491," NBER Working Papers 14766, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    26. Carson, Scott Alan, 2005. "The biological standard of living in 19th century Mexico and in the American West," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 405-419, December.
    27. John Komlos & Joo Han Kim, "undated". "Estimating Trends in Historical Heights," Articles by John Komlos 25, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Esteban A. Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial Economies: Lessons from 18th-Century Spain," Working Papers 0095, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Javier Rodríguez Weber, 2018. "Alta desigualdad en América Latina: desde cuándo y por qué," Documentos de trabajo 51, Programa de Historia Económica, FCS, Udelar.
    3. Juif, Dácil-Tania & Baten, Joerg, 2013. "On the human capital of Inca Indios before and after the Spanish Conquest. Was there a “Pre-Colonial Legacy”?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 227-241.
    4. , Stone Center & Bleynat, Ingrid & Challú, Amílcar & Segal, Paul, 2020. "Inequality, Living Standards and Growth: Two Centuries of Economic Development in Mexico," SocArXiv 9ztb7, Center for Open Science.
    5. Alfani, Guido, 2015. "Economic Inequality in Northwestern Italy: A Long-Term View (Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries)," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1058-1096, December.
    6. Bleynat, Ingrid & Challú, Amílcar & Segal, Paul, 2020. "Inequality, living standards and growth: two centuries of economic development in Mexico," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 105215, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Arsenault Morin, Alex & Geloso, Vincent & Kufenko, Vadim, 2017. "The heights of French-Canadian convicts, 1780s–1820s," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 126-136.
    8. Pablo Astorga, 2015. "Functional Inequality in Latin America: News from the Twentieth Century," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _135, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    9. Esteban Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial economies. Lessons from Spain in the 18th century," Working Papers 16.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    10. Pablo Astorga, 2015. "Functional Inequality in Latin America: News from the Twentieth Century," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _135, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Steckel, Richard H., 2009. "Heights and human welfare: Recent developments and new directions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-23, January.
    2. Rafael Dobado González & Hector García, 2009. "Neither so low nor so short! Wages and heights in eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries colonial Hispanic America," Working Papers del Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales 0914, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales.
    3. Dobado-González, Rafael & Garcia-Hiernaux, Alfredo, 2017. "Two worlds apart: Determinants of height in late 18th century central Mexico," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 24(C), pages 153-163.
    4. repec:ucm:wpaper:14-09 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Komlos, John & A’Hearn, Brian, 2017. "Hidden negative aspects of industrialization at the onset of modern economic growth in the U.S," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 43-52.
    6. Komlos, John, 2019. "Shrinking in a growing economy is not so puzzling after all," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 40-55.
    7. Maria-Dolores, Ramon & Martínez Carrion, José Miguel, 2012. "The comovement between height and some economic development indicators in Spain," UMUFAE Economics Working Papers 26464, DIGITUM. Universidad de Murcia.
    8. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    9. Meisel-Roca, Adolfo & Ramírez-Giraldo, María Teresa & Santos-Cárdenas, Daniela, 2019. "Long run relationship between biological well being, and economic development in Colombia," Working papers 24, Red Investigadores de Economía.
    10. Komlos, John & Baten, Jörg, 2003. "Looking Backward and Looking Forward: Anthropometric Research and the Development of Social Science History," Discussion Papers in Economics 59, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    11. Komlos, John, 2009. "How useful is anthropometric history?," Discussion Papers in Economics 10587, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    12. María-Dolores, Ramón & Martínez-Carrión, José Miguel, 2011. "The relationship between height and economic development in Spain, 1850-1958," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 30-44, January.
    13. Coppola, Michela, 2013. "The biological standard of living and mortality in Central Italy at the beginning of the 19th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 453-464.
    14. José M. Martínez-Carrión & Pedro M. Pérez-Castroviejo & Javier Puche-Gil & Josep M. Ramon-Muñoz, 2014. "Living standards and rural-urban height gap during the early stages of modern economic growth in Spain," Documentos de Trabajo de la Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria 1410, Sociedad Española de Historia Agraria.
    15. Antonio Andres & Carlyn Ramlogan-Dobson, 2011. "Is Corruption Really Bad for Inequality? Evidence from Latin America," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 959-976.
    16. Galofré-Vilà, Gregori, 2018. "Growth and maturity: A quantitative systematic review and network analysis in anthropometric history," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 107-118.
    17. Julianne Treme & Lee A. Craig, 2013. "Urbanization, Health And Human Stature," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65, pages 130-141, May.
    18. Ramón María-Dolores & José Miguel Martínez Carrión, 2009. "The relationship between height and economic development in Spain. A historical perspective," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 0912, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    19. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4300 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Robert C. Allen, 2015. "The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: a restatement," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(1), pages 1-22, February.
    21. Eric B. Schneider, 2017. "Children's growth in an adaptive framework: explaining the growth patterns of American slaves and other historical populations," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(1), pages 3-29, February.
    22. Robert C. Allen, 2015. "The high wage economy and the industrial revolution: a restatement," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(1), pages 1-22, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B23 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Econometrics; Quantitative and Mathematical Studies

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:28:y:2010:i:02:p:253-277_00. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://www.cambridge.org/rhe .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Keith Waters (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://www.cambridge.org/rhe .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.