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Risk, Asset Markets and Inequality: Evidence from Medieval England

  • Cliff T. Bekar
  • Clyde Reed
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    Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries English peasants faced large income shocks relative to mean incomes.� Innovations in property rights over land induced peasants to respond by trading small parcels of land as part of their risk coping strategy.� The same period witnessed a dramatic increase in inequality in the distribution of peasant landholdings.� We argue that these events are related.� When agents are able to trade their productive assets to manage risk, wealth dynamics become unstable and generate increasing inequality over time.� We analyze the effects of these dynamics in the context of medieval English land markets and peasant landholdings.

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    Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number Number 79.

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    Date of creation: 01 Oct 2009
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:number-79
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    1. David de la Croix & Matthias Doepke, 2003. "Inequality and Growth: Why Differential Fertility Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1091-1113, September.
    2. Hatcher, John & Bailey, Mark, 2001. "Modelling the Middle Ages: The History and Theory of England's Economic Development," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199244126, July.
    3. Marcle Fafchamps, 1999. "Risk sharing and quasi-credit," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 257-278.
    4. Piketty, Thomas, 1997. "The Dynamics of the Wealth Distribution and the Interest Rate with Credit Rationing," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(2), pages 173-89, April.
    5. Clark, Gregory & Hamilton, Gillian, 2006. "Survival of the Richest: The Malthusian Mechanism in Pre-Industrial England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 707-736, September.
    6. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-51, September.
    7. Kimball, Miles S, 1988. "Farmers' Cooperatives as Behavior Toward Risk," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(1), pages 224-32, March.
    8. Maristella Botticini & Aloysius Siow, 2003. "Why Dowries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1385-1398, September.
    9. Dyer,Christopher, 1989. "Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521272155.
    10. Frederic Zimmerman & MICHAEL R. CARTER, . "Asset Smoothing, Consumption Smoothing and the Reproduction for Inequality under Risk and Subsistence Constraints," Wisconsin-Madison Agricultural and Applied Economics Staff Papers 402, Wisconsin-Madison Agricultural and Applied Economics Department.
    11. Reed, Clyde G. & Bekar, Cliff T., 2003. "Religious prohibitions against usury," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 347-368, October.
    12. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah J, 1996. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 443-87, June.
    13. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Nina Pavcnik, 2007. "Distributional Effects of Globalization in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 12885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Botticini, Maristella, 1999. "A Loveless Economy? Intergenerational Altruism and the Marriage Market in a Tuscan Town, 1415–1436," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(01), pages 104-121, March.
    15. Junichi Kanzaka, 2002. "Villein rents in thirteenth–century England: an analysis of the Hundred Rolls of 1279–1280," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 55(4), pages 593-618, November.
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