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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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    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Brian A'Hearn & Alexia Delfino & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2016. "Rethinking Age-Heaping. A Cautionary Tale from Nineteenth Century Italy," LEM Papers Series 2016/35, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    7. 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).
    8. Albertus, Michael & Espinoza, Mauricio & Fort, Ricardo, 2020. "Land reform and human capital development: Evidence from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C).
    9. Baten, Joerg & Mumme, Christina, 2013. "Does inequality lead to civil wars? A global long-term study using anthropometric indicators (1816–1999)," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 56-79.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Eiji Yamamura, 2017. "Effect of Historical Educational Level on Perceived Inequality, Preference for Redistribution and Progressive Taxation," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 355-369, 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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