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Reexamining The Distribution Of Wealth In 1870

  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom
  • Gregory W. Stutes

We use data from the IPUMS sample of the 1870 US Population Census to analyze the distribution of real and personal property wealth. Wealth was relatively more equally distributed near the beginning of U.S. industrialization than it would be 50 years later. Disaggregating the data by demographic groups and spatially we find evidence consistent with Kuznets¡¯ conjecture that urbanization and industrialization were associated with rising inequality in the nineteenth century. But we also find that inequality was high in the South, even though it remained in 1870 highly rural and agricultural. Finally we find evidence that increasing literacy may have helped to reduce inequality.

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Paper provided by University of Kansas, Department of Economics in its series WORKING PAPERS SERIES IN THEORETICAL AND APPLIED ECONOMICS with number 200501.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2005
Date of revision: Jan 2005
Handle: RePEc:kan:wpaper:200501
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  1. Steckel, Richard H. & Moehling, Carolyn M., 2001. "Rising Inequality: Trends In The Distribution Of Wealth In Industrializing New England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(01), pages 160-183, March.
  2. Richard H. Steckel, 1989. "Poverty and Prosperity: A Longitudinal Study of Wealth Accumulation, 1850-1860," NBER Historical Working Papers 0008, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1981. "Egalitarianism, Inequality, and Age: The Rural North in 1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 85-93, March.
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