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Unreal Wages? Real Income And Economic Growth In England, 1260-1850

Author

Listed:
  • Jane Humphries

    () (Professor of Economic History, All Souls College, Economics and Business, University of Oxford)

  • Jacob Weisdorf

    () (Professor of Economics, Department of Economics and Business, University of Southern Denmark, DK-5320 Odense)

Abstract

Historical estimates of workers’ earnings suffer from the fundamental problem that annual incomes are inferred from day wages without knowing the length of the working year. This uncertainty raises doubts about core growth theories that rely on existing income estimates to explain the origins of the wealth of nations. We circumvent the problem by building an income series of workers employed on annual rather than casual contracts. Our data suggests that existing annual income estimates based on day wages are badly off target, because they overestimate the medieval working year but underestimate the working year during the industrial revolution. Our revised annual income estimates indicate that modern economic growth began almost two centuries earlier than commonly thought and was driven by an ‘Industrious Revolution’.

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Humphries & Jacob Weisdorf, 2017. "Unreal Wages? Real Income And Economic Growth In England, 1260-1850," Working Papers 0121, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0121
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Gregory Clark, 2005. "The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1209-2004," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(6), pages 1307-1340, December.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    England; Industrial Revolution; Industrious Revolution; Labour Supply; Living standards; Malthusian Model; Modern Economic Growth; Real Wages;

    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination
    • J8 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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