IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/auu/hpaper/080.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Always Egalitarian: Australian Earnings Inequality 1870-1910 1

Author

Listed:
  • Laura Panza
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

Abstract

Trends in Australian inequality across the twentieth century are now well documented and they closely replicate trends in every other advanced economy: from WWI to the 1970s, inequality fell steeply everywhere, and from the 1970s to the present, it rose just as steeply. Despite following a similar trajectory, Australia remained more egalitarian throughout. Why has it been exceptional and what are its origins? Our previous work has found plenty of evidence documenting a steep fall in Australian income and earnings inequality from 1820 to 1870 (Panza and Williamson 2019a). This paper answers two additional questions. First, what was the level of inequality around 1870 after the fall? While we cannot speak to income inequality in 1870, we do find that earnings inequality was much lower in Australia than in the United States, the United Kingdom, and presumably the rest of Europe. Second, we find that there was no rise in Australian earnings inequality over the half century 1870-1910, but rather a modest fall. These findings rely on the use of an array of primary sources – especially the underutilized government Blue Books reporting annual earnings of an impressive range of white collar occupations – as well as better known secondary sources reporting the earnings of manual workers and farm labor. These occupational (average) earnings data are merged with occupational employment data taken from the censuses to construct social tables for Australia’s 1870 earnings distribution. We do the same for postfederation 1910 Australia. This exercise establishes that the source of modern Australia’s relative egalitarianism is the middle third of the colonial nineteenth century. We also apply Goldin-Katz (2008) analysis to the half century 1870-1910 thus to identify the sources of slow skill demand and fast skill supply growth. Australia missed a rise up some Kuznets Curve before World War I, a rise so common in Europe and most of its offshoots.

Suggested Citation

  • Laura Panza & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2019. "Always Egalitarian: Australian Earnings Inequality 1870-1910 1," CEH Discussion Papers 08, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:080
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/ceh/WP201908.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. repec:bla:ozechr:v:57:y:2017:i:3:p:264-290 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2016. "Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality since 1700," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10670.
    3. Saunders, Peter, 1993. "Longer Run Changes in the Distribution of Income in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 69(207), pages 353-366, December.
    4. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2010. "Top Incomes: A Global Perspective," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286898.
    5. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2010. "Top Incomes : A Global Perspective," Post-Print halshs-00754875, HAL.
    6. Lindert, Peter H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1982. "Revising England's social tables 1688-1812," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 385-408, October.
    7. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2015. "Latin American Inequality: Colonial Origins, Commodity Booms, or a Missed 20th Century Leveling?," NBER Working Papers 20915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2011. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(1), pages 3-71, March.
    9. repec:bla:ehsrev:v:71:y:2018:i:4:p:1029-1047 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Laura Panza & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2017. "Australian Squatters, Convicts, and Capitalists: Dividing Up a Fast-Growing Frontier Pie 1821-1871," CEH Discussion Papers 02, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    11. Timothy J. Hatton, 2019. "Emigration from the UK 1870-1913: Quantity and Quality," CEH Discussion Papers 07, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    12. Bengtsson, Erik & Waldenström, Daniel, 2018. "Capital Shares and Income Inequality: Evidence from the Long Run," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 78(3), pages 712-743, September.
    13. Thomas Piketty, 2005. "Top Income Shares in the Long Run: An Overview," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 382-392, 04/05.
    14. Huberman, Michael & Meissner, Christopher M., 2010. "Riding the Wave of Trade: The Rise of Labor Regulation in the Golden Age of Globalization," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 657-685, September.
    15. Atkinson, A B, 2008. "The Changing Distribution of Earnings in OECD Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199532438.
    16. Anthony Atkinson & Thomas Piketty, 2007. "Top incomes over the twentieth century: A contrast between continental european and english-speaking countries," Post-Print halshs-00754859, HAL.
    17. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2015. "Latin American Inequality: Colonial Origins, Commodity Booms or a Missed Twentieth-Century Leveling?," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(3), pages 324-341, August.
    18. McLean, Ian & Richardson, Sue, 1986. "More or Less Equal? Australian Income Distribution in 1933 and 1980," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 62(176), pages 67-81, March.
    19. Atkinson, A. B. & Piketty, Thomas (ed.), 2007. "Top Incomes Over the Twentieth Century: A Contrast Between Continental European and English-Speaking Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199286881.
    20. David Greasley & Jakob B. Madsen, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of Exceptional Australian Incomes Since 1800," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 57(3), pages 264-290, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:080. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/chanuau.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.