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Coercive Contract Enforcement: Law and the Labor Market in 19th Century Industrial Britain

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  • Suresh Naidu
  • Noam Yuchtman

Abstract

British Master and Servant law made employee contract breach a criminal offense until 1875. We develop a contracting model generating equilibrium contract breach and prosecutions, then exploit exogenous changes in output prices to examine the effects of labor demand shocks on prosecutions. Positive shocks in the textile, iron, and coal industries increased prosecutions. Following the abolition of criminal sanctions, wages differentially rose in counties that had experienced more prosecutions, and wages responded more to labor demand shocks. Coercive contract enforcement was applied in industrial Britain; restricted mobility allowed workers to commit to risk-sharing contracts with lower, but less volatile, wages.

Suggested Citation

  • Suresh Naidu & Noam Yuchtman, 2011. "Coercive Contract Enforcement: Law and the Labor Market in 19th Century Industrial Britain," NBER Working Papers 17051, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17051
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Labour repression & the Indo-Japanese divergence
      by pseudoerasmus in Pseudoerasmus on 2017-10-02 06:04:55

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    Cited by:

    1. Galor, Oded & Munshi, Kaivan & Wilson, Nicolas, 2013. "Inclusive Institutions and Long-Run Misallocation," MPRA Paper 51643, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2015. "The Rise and Decline of General Laws of Capitalism," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    3. Nunn, Nathan & Trefler, Daniel, 2014. "Domestic Institutions as a Source of Comparative Advantage," Handbook of International Economics, Elsevier.
    4. Álvaro Aguirre, 2013. "Rebellions, Technical Change, and the Early Development of Political Institutions in Latin America," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 688, Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Gupta, Bishnupriya & Swamy, Anand, 2013. "Unfree Labour: Did Indenture Reduce Labour Supply to Tea Plantations in Assam?," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 177, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Suresh Naidu & Pascual Restrepo & James A. Robinson, 2013. "Democracy, Redistribution and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 19746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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