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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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  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom & Gregory W. Stutes, 2005. "Reexamining The Distribution Of Wealth In 1870," WORKING PAPERS SERIES IN THEORETICAL AND APPLIED ECONOMICS 200501, University of Kansas, Department of Economics, revised Jan 2005.
  • Handle: RePEc:kan:wpaper:200501

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    References listed on IDEAS

    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. Steckel, Richard H, 1990. "Poverty and Prosperity: A Longitudinal Study of Wealth Accumulation, 1850-1860," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(2), pages 275-285, May.
    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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    Cited by:

    1. Ohlsson, Henry & Roine, Jesper & Waldenstrom, Daniel, 2006. "Long-Run Changes in the Concentration of Wealth: An Overview of Recent Findings," WIDER Working Paper Series 103, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    JEL classification:

    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy
    • R2 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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