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

Author

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  • Maristella Botticini

    () (Department of Economics, Boston University)

  • Zvi Eckstein

    () (‡Tel Aviv University, University of Minnesota, and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein, 2005. "From Farmers to Merchants:A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish Economic History," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-018, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:wpaper:wp2005-018
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "Long-Term Economic Growth and the History of Technology," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 17, pages 1113-1180 Elsevier.
    2. Botticini, Maristella & Eckstein, Zvi, 2005. "Jewish Occupational Selection: Education, Restrictions, or Minorities?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 922-948, December.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    first millennium; human capital; Jewish economic history; migration; occupational choice; religion and social norms.;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J20 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - General
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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