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Staying or Leaving? Gender, Job opportunities, and Poor Law Administration in Nineteenth-Century England


  • Chiaki Yamamoto

    (Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University)


English agriculture in the first half of the nineteenth century was characterised by the ehigh-wage north and low-wage south f pattern. The serious problem of rural unemployment in southern England is also widely acknowledged for this period. The question then remains: Why did agricultural labourers stay in the south? Why did they not move to the industrial north where more job opportunities were available? In answer to this question, I propose that; the wage rate in the south was high enough, if income-in-kind is taken into consideration, and that in-kind income, especially in the form of drink allowance, was more prevalent in the south. This paper also attempts to estimate regional unemployment rates directly. While unemployment in the south has been well recognised, the perceptions are largely based on indirect evidence such as per capita poor law expenditure, or descriptive information derived from contemporary writings. However, poor law expenditure is likely to have been affected by the actual practice of poor relief in the local context, and it is almost impossible to use contemporary remarks for systematic regional comparison. Therefore, I attempt to estimate unemployment rates more directly, in percentage terms. The second aim of this paper is to estimate regional real wages inclusive of income-in-kind. The Rural Query of the 1834 Poor Law Report, the main source for this paper, asked the rate of male wages with or without beer or cider. I used this information to estimate real wages. Thirdly, I estimate female wages and consider job opportunities for women, to calculate annual family income in a regional perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Chiaki Yamamoto, 2014. "Staying or Leaving? Gender, Job opportunities, and Poor Law Administration in Nineteenth-Century England," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 14-24, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:osk:wpaper:1424

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric Melander & Martina Miotto, 2023. "Welfare Cuts and Crime: Evidence from the New Poor Law," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 133(651), pages 1248-1264.

    More about this item


    the Industrial Revolution; income-in-kind; food/drink allowances; regional wage gaps; migration.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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