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Human capital and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile

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  • Álvarez, Begoña
  • Palencia, Fernando Ramos

Abstract

Using the Ensenada Cadastre, a unique database on Castilian households circa 1750, this paper provides new evidence on the relationship between human capital and male labor earnings in eighteenth-century Spain. Human capital is proxied by individual indicators of basic skills (literacy and numeracy) and of occupational skills. We employ a Mincerian regression approach and find a positive and statistically significant association between skills and average earnings. Although we cannot reliably assess causality in the observed relationship, these findings are robust to conditioning on household composition, job characteristics, and place of residence. Nonetheless, further testing indicates that the earnings gradient associated with literacy is driven mainly by unobservable variables (e.g., ability, family background) that explain both the worker's acquisition of this skill and his earnings. The estimated associations are stronger for urban than for rural workers and are highly heterogeneous across activity sectors. Our analysis reveals that workers with higher skills were not only better remunerated in their main occupation but also more likely to diversify their earnings through “by-employment”. Finally, quantile regression analysis indicates that earnings disparities—between workers with different skills—were much smaller at the lower than the upper end of the earnings distribution. This evidence suggests that, in pre-industrial Castile, human capital may have contributed to inequality of earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Álvarez, Begoña & Palencia, Fernando Ramos, 2018. "Human capital and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 105-133.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:105-133
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2017.10.005
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    4. Francisco J. Beltrán Tapia & Alfonso Díez-Minguela & Julio Martinez-Galarraga & Daniel A. Tirado-Fabregat, 2020. "Lordships, state capacity and beyond: literacy rates in mid-nineteenth-century Valencia," Working Papers 0196, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    5. Espín-Sánchez, José-Antonio & Gil-Guirado, Salvador & Giraldo-Paez, W. Daniel & Vickers, Chris, 2019. "Labor income inequality in pre-industrial Mediterranean Spain: The city of Murcia in the 18th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-1.
    6. Laura E. Henkhaus, 2022. "The lasting consequences of childhood sexual abuse on human capital and economic well‐being," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 31(9), pages 1954-1972, September.
    7. Èric Gómez‐i‐Aznar, 2023. "Ad maiorem Dei gloriam: Numeracy levels in the Guarani Jesuit missions," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 76(1), pages 87-117, February.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Literacy; Numeracy; Occupational skills; Pre-industrial Spain; Individual earnings; Skill premia;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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