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A story of large landowners and math skills: Inequality and human capital formation in long-run development, 1820–2000

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  • Baten, Joerg
  • Juif, Dácil

Abstract

We create a new dataset to test the influence of land inequality on long-run human capital formation in a global cross-country study and assess the importance of land inequality relative to income inequality. Our results show that early land inequality has a detrimental influence on math and science skills even a century later. We find that this influence is causal, using an instrumental variable (IV) approach with geological, climatic and other variables that are intrinsically exogenous. A second major contribution of our study is our assessment of the persistence of numerical cognitive skills, which are an important component of modern human capital measures. Early numeracy around 1820 is estimated using the age-heaping strategy. We argue that countries with early investments in numerical education entered a path-dependency of human capital-intensive industries, including skill-intensive agriculture and services. The combined long-run effects of land inequality and human capital path-dependence are assessed for the first time in this article.

Suggested Citation

  • Baten, Joerg & Juif, Dácil, 2014. "A story of large landowners and math skills: Inequality and human capital formation in long-run development, 1820–2000," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(2), pages 375-401.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:42:y:2014:i:2:p:375-401
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2013.11.001
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    3. Joerg Baten & Kleoniki Alexopoulou, 2022. "Elite violence and elite numeracy in Africa from 1400 CE to 1950 CE [Quantifying quantitative literacy: age heaping and the history of human capital]," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(2), pages 155-184.
    4. Albertus, Michael & Espinoza, Mauricio & Fort, Ricardo, 2020. "Land reform and human capital development: Evidence from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
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    6. Martin, Lisa & Baten, Joerg, 2022. "Inequality and Life Expectancy in Africa and Asia, 1820‐2000," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 201(C), pages 40-59.
    7. Baten, Jörg & de Pleijt, Alexandra, 2018. "Female autonomy generates superstars in long-term development: Evidence from 15th to 19th century Europe," CEPR Discussion Papers 13348, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Matthias Blum & Karl†Peter Krauss, 2018. "Age heaping and numeracy: looking behind the curtain," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 464-479, May.
    9. Joerg Baten & Ralph Hippe, 2018. "Geography, land inequality and regional numeracy in Europe in historical perspective," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 79-109, March.
    10. Oyvat, Cem & Tekgüç, Hasan, 2017. "Double squeeze on educational development: land inequality and ethnic conflict in Southeastern Turkey," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 16812, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    11. Dahlum, Sirianne & Knutsen, Carl Henrik, 2017. "Do Democracies Provide Better Education? Revisiting the Democracy–Human Capital Link," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 186-199.
    12. Brian A'Hearn & Alexia Delfino & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2022. "Rethinking age heaping: a cautionary tale from nineteenth‐century Italy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(1), pages 111-137, February.
    13. Monica Bozzano & Gabriele Cappelli, 2019. "The legacy of history or the outcome of reforms? Primary education and literacy in Liberal Italy (1871-1911)," Department of Economics University of Siena 801, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    14. Cappelli, Gabriele & Baten, Joerg, 2021. "Numeracy development in Africa: New evidence from a long-term perspective (1730–1970)," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 150(C).
    15. Yuta J. Masuda & Jonathan R.B. Fisher & Wei Zhang & Carolina Castilla & Timothy M. Boucher & Genowefa Blundo‐Canto, 2020. "A respondent‐driven method for mapping small agricultural plots using tablets and high resolution imagery," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(5), pages 727-748, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Land inequality; Human capital; Economic history;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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