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Wages, prices, and living standards in China, 1738-1925: in comparison with Europe, Japan and India

  • Robert C. Allen
  • Jean-Pascal Bassino
  • Debin Ma
  • Christine Moll-Murata
  • Jan Luiten van Zanden

This paper develops data on the history of wages and prices in Beijing, Canton, Suzhou/Shanghai in China from the eighteenth century to the twentieth and compare them with leading cities in Europe, Japan and India in terms of nominal wages, the cost of living, and the standard of living. In the eighteenth century, the real income of building workers in Asia was similar to that of workers in the backward parts of Europe but far behind that in the leading economies in north western Europe. Real wages declined in China in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and rose slowly in the late nineteenth and early twentieth with little cumulative change for two hundred years. The income disparities of the early twentieth century were due to long run stagnation in China combined with industrialization in Japan and Europe.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/27871/
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History in its series Economic History Working Papers with number 27871.

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Length: 58 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:27871
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE, Dept. of Economic History Houghton Street London, WC2A 2AE, U.K.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7955 7084
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/economicHistory/

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  1. van Zanden, Jan L., 1999. "Wages and the standard of living in Europe, 1500 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(02), pages 175-197, August.
  2. Feuerwerker, Albert, 1970. "Handicraft and Manufactured Cotton Textiles in China, 1871–1910," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(02), pages 338-378, June.
  3. Van Zanden, Jan Luiten, 2009. "The skill premium and the ‘Great Divergence’," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(01), pages 121-153, April.
  4. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  5. "Bassino, Jean‐Pascal" & "Ma, Debin" & "Saito, Osamu", 2005. "Levels of Real Wages in Historic China, Japan and Southern Europe, 1700-1920―A Review of Evidence―," Economic Review, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 56(4), pages 348-369, January.
  6. Li, Lillian M., 2000. "Integration and Disintegration in North China's Grain Markets, 1738–1911," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 665-699, September.
  7. zmucur, S leyman & Pamuk, Sevket, 2002. "Real Wages And Standards Of Living In The Ottoman Empire, 1489 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 293-321, June.
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