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Economically relevant human capital or multi-purpose consumption good? Book ownership in pre-modern Württemberg

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  • Ogilvie, Sheilagh
  • Edwards, Jeremy
  • Küpker, Markus

Abstract

We investigate books as an indicator of human capital using extraordinary, individual-level data on book ownership and signature literacy for a population of German women and men between 1610 and 1900. Although book ownership was very high from an early date, it was associated with signature literacy, gender, urbanization, and wealth in ways inconsistent with its having registered economically relevant human capital. The books people owned were overwhelmingly religious, as elsewhere in pre-modern Europe. People consumed books for multifarious purposes, many of them non-economic. In this pre-modern economy, books were not a good indicator of economically relevant human capital for the population at large, which creates doubt about their use for this purpose more generally.

Suggested Citation

  • Ogilvie, Sheilagh & Edwards, Jeremy & Küpker, Markus, 2022. "Economically relevant human capital or multi-purpose consumption good? Book ownership in pre-modern Württemberg," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 83(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:83:y:2022:i:c:s0014498321000401
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2021.101418
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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