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Human Capital Formation during the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Use of Steam Engines

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  • Pleijt, Alexandra M. de

    (London School of Economics and Utrecht University)

  • Nuvolari, Alessandro

    (Sant’ Anna School of Advanced Studies)

  • Weisdorf, Jacob

    (University of Southern Denmark, CEPR and CAGE)

Abstract

This paper explores the effect of technological change on human capital formation during the early phases of England’s Industrial Revolution. Following the methodology used in Franck and Galor (2016), we consider the adoption of steam engines as an indicator of technical change, examining the correlation between industrialisation and human capital by performing cross-sectional regression analyses using county-level variation in the number of steam engines installed in England by 1800. Using exogenous variation in carboniferous rock strata as an instrument for the regional distribution of steam engines, we find that technological change as captured by steam technology significantly improved the average working skills of the labour force. In particular, places with more steam engines had lower shares of unskilled workers and higher shares of highly-skilled mechanical workmen deemed important by Mokyr (2005) in the Industrial Revolution. Technological change was, however, not conducive to elementary education. Literacy rates and school enrollment rates were not systematically different in places with more steam engines. This diverse response to new technology highlights the ambiguous effects of early industrialisation on the formation of human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Pleijt, Alexandra M. de & Nuvolari, Alessandro & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2016. "Human Capital Formation during the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Use of Steam Engines," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 294, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:294
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    Cited by:

    1. David de la Croix & Eric B. Schneider & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Childlessness, celibacy and net fertility in pre-industrial England: the middle-class evolutionary advantage," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 24(3), pages 223-256, September.
    2. Jeremy Atack & Robert A. Margo & Paul W. Rhode, 2019. ""Automation" of Manufacturing in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Hand and Machine Labor Study," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 33(2), pages 51-70, Spring.
    3. Felix Meier zu Selhausen & Marco H. D. van Leeuwen & Jacob L. Weisdorf, 2018. "Social mobility among Christian Africans: evidence from Anglican marriage registers in Uganda, 1895–2011," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1291-1321, November.
    4. Claude Diebolt & Charlotte Le Chapelain & Audrey-Rose Menard, 2017. "Industrialization as a Deskilling Process? Steam Engines and Human Capital in XIXth Century France," Working Papers of BETA 2017-17, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    5. Claude Diebolt & Charlotte Le Chapelain & Audrey Rose Menard, 2019. "Neither the elite, nor the mass. The rise of intermediate human capital during the French industrialization process," Working Papers of BETA 2019-07, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    6. Claude Diebolt & Charlotte Le Chapelain & Audrey Rose Menard, 2018. "Learning outside the factory: the impact of technological change on the rise of adult education in nineteenth-century France," Working Papers 02-18, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
    7. Tomas Cvrcek & Miroslav Zajicek, 2019. "The rise of public schooling in nineteenth-century Imperial Austria: Who gained and who paid?," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 13(3), pages 367-403, September.
    8. Adrien Montalbo, 2018. "Industrial activities and primary schooling in early nineteenth-century France," PSE Working Papers halshs-01826346, HAL.
    9. 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.
    10. Stefan Leknes & Jørgen Modalsli, 2018. "Who benefited from industrialization? The local effects of hydropower technology adoption," Discussion Papers 874, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    11. 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.
    12. Katz‬‏, ‪Ori, 2018. "Railroads, Economic Development, and the Demographic Transition in the United States," MPRA Paper 88869, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Growth; Education; Human Capital; Industrialisation; Technological Progress; Steam Engines JEL Classification: J82; N33; O14; O33;

    JEL classification:

    • J82 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Labor Force Composition
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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