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Technological change and inequality in the very long run

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  • Madsen, Jakob
  • Strulik, Holger

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the impact of technological change on inequality in the presence of a landed elite using a standard unified growth model. We measure inequality by the ratio between land rent and wages and show that, before the onset of the fertility transition, technological progress increased inequality directly through land-biased technological change and indirectly through increasing population growth. The fertility transition and the child quantity-quality trade-off eventually disabled the Malthusian mechanism, and technological progress triggered education and benefited workers. If the elasticity of substitution between land and labor is sufficiently high, the rent-wage ratio declines such that inequality is hump-shaped in the very long run. We use the publication of new farming book titles as a measure of technological progress in agriculture, and provide evidence for technology-driven inequality in Britain between 1525 and 1895. We confirm these results for a panel of European countries over the period 1265–1850 using agricultural productivity as a measure of technology. Finally, using patents in the period 1800–1980, we find a technology-driven inequality reversal around the onset of the fertility transition.

Suggested Citation

  • Madsen, Jakob & Strulik, Holger, 2020. "Technological change and inequality in the very long run," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:129:y:2020:i:c:s001429212030163x
    DOI: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2020.103532
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    2. Chu, Angus C. & Peretto, Pietro F. & Wang, Xilin, 2022. "Agricultural revolution and industrialization," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 158(C).
    3. Tao Tang & Lizeth Cuesta & Brayan Tillaguango & Rafael Alvarado & Abdul Rehman & Diana Bravo-Benavides & Natalia Zárate, 2022. "Causal Link between Technological Innovation and Inequality Moderated by Public Spending, Manufacturing, Agricultural Employment, and Export Diversification," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(14), pages 1-25, July.
    4. Angus C. Chu & Yuichi Furukawa & Sushanta Mallick & Pietro Peretto & Xilin Wang, 2021. "Dynamic effects of patent policy on innovation and inequality in a Schumpeterian economy," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 71(4), pages 1429-1465, June.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; Malthus; Unified growth theory; Agriculture; Human capital;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development

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