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The role of human capital in pre-industrial societies: Skills and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile (Spain)

Author

Listed:
  • Begoña Álvarez

    () (Department of Applied Economics, Universidad de Vigo)

  • Fernando Ramos Palencia

    () (Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History, Universidad Pablo de Olavide)

Abstract

Using the Ensenada Cadastre, a unique database on Castilian households circa 1750, we measure the effect of human capital on the structure of male labor earnings. Human capital is proxied by individual indicators of basic skills (literacy and numeracy) and of occupational skills. We employ a Mincerian regression approach and find that, on average, workers with greater skills earned more than otherwise similar workers with lesser skills. This finding is robust to the inclusion of additional controls for age, household composition, job characteristics, and place of residence. Estimated returns were larger for urban than for rural workers and were strongly heterogeneous across activity sectors. The richness of our data set reveals that higher-skilled workers not only reaped positive rewards in their main jobs but also were more likely to diversify and increase their earnings through “by-employment”. However, not all workers benefited to the same degree from increased human capital. Quantile regression analysis shows that earnings disparities between workers with different skills were much smaller at the lower than at the upper end of the earnings distribution. This evidence indicates that, in pre-industrial Castile, human capital contributed to earnings (and income) inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Begoña Álvarez & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "The role of human capital in pre-industrial societies: Skills and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile (Spain)," Working Papers 16.03, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:pab:wphaei:16.03
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    human capital; pre-industrial Spain; skill premia; earnings inequality; quantile regression;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models

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