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Testing Marx. Income inequality, concentration, and socialism in late 19th century Germany

Author

Listed:
  • Charlotte Bartels

    (DIW Berlin)

  • Felix Kersting

    (Humboldt University Berlin)

  • Nikolaus Wolf

    (Humboldt University Berlin)

Abstract

We study the dynamics of income inequality, capital concentration, and voting outcomes before 1914. Based on new panel data for Prussian counties and districts we re-evaluate the key economic debate between Marxists and their critics before 1914. We show that the increase in inequality was strongly correlated with a rising capital share, as predicted by Marxists at the time. In contrast, rising capital concentration was not associated with increasing income inequality. Relying on new sector×county data, we show that increasing strike activity worked as an offsetting factor. Similarly, the socialists did not directly benefit from rising inequality at the polls, but from the activity of trade unions. Overall, we find evidence for a rise in the bargaining power of workers, which limited the increase in inequality before 1914.

Suggested Citation

  • Charlotte Bartels & Felix Kersting & Nikolaus Wolf, 2021. "Testing Marx. Income inequality, concentration, and socialism in late 19th century Germany," Working Papers 0211, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
  • Handle: RePEc:hes:wpaper:0211
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    Cited by:

    1. Nikolaus Wolf, 2021. "Deutschland in der ersten Globalisierung," Wirtschaftsdienst, Springer;ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 101(4), pages 254-258, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income Inequality; Concentration; Top Incomes; Capital Share; Germany;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative

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