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From Farmers to Merchants: A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish Economic History

  • Maristella Botticini

    ()

    (Institute for Economic Development, Boston University)

  • Zvi Eckstein

    ()

    (Tel Avive University)

Since the early Middle Ages almost all the Jews have been engaged primarily in urban, skilled occupations. The transition from farmers to merchants occurred between the eighth and the ninth centuries in the Muslim Empire where the Jews moved from villages to the newly developed urban centers. They continued to be engaged in urban occupations throughout their history. We explain this occupational selection as the outcome of (i) the Jews’ investment in education prompted by a change in religious norms during the first and second centuries, and (ii) the increased urbanization in the Muslim Empire. Our theory also predicts that the change in religious norms would lead some Jews to voluntarily convert to other religions. A substantial reduction in Jewish population between the second and the sixth centuries confirms this prediction.

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Paper provided by Boston University - Department of Economics in its series Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series with number dp-124.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-124
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