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Bend it like Beckham: Hours and Wages across Forty-Eight Countries in 1900

Author

Listed:
  • Michael Huberman

    (University of Montreal)

  • Frank Lewis

    () (Queen's University)

Abstract

Based largely on the Fifteenth Annual Report of the U.S. Department of Labor, published in 1900, we have built a sample of wages and hours for roughly fifty countries in six continents that covers the period 1890-1900. The Report, which is drawn from official (national) publications, gives information on normal or usual hours and earnings per week at the establishment level. To our knowledge, this is the most extensive data set of its kind totaling about 15,000 observations. We combine the data set with other country-specific evidence to derive implications about labour supply. The data reveal a cross-country supply curve that was markedly backward-bending. In addition, for a given wage level, we find a positive relation between a country’s per-capita income and work hours. We interpret the patterns by proposing a standard utility function in consumption and hours of work, where a minimal level of consumption is introduced as a constraint. We interpret that minimum more broadly than biological subsistence. Rather minimal consumption is assumed to increase with the average income of a country. We also explore the possible role of climate in affecting the consumption constraint. Given the size of the data set, although coverage is uneven, we are able to estimate labour supply curves within countries and regions, in addition to making overall comparisons of work hours across countries. Our preliminary work suggests that a consumption constraint played a key role in the negative relation between wages and hours of work within countries, and that across countries higher average incomes, which effectively raised the constraint, promoted greater work hours.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Huberman & Frank Lewis, 2007. "Bend it like Beckham: Hours and Wages across Forty-Eight Countries in 1900," Working Papers 1229, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1229
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    File URL: http://qed.econ.queensu.ca/working_papers/papers/qed_wp_1229.pdf
    File Function: First version 2007
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Williamson Jeffrey G., 1995. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets since 1830: Background Evidence and Hypotheses," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 141-196, April.
    2. Kilpatrick, Robert W, 1973. "The Income Elasticity of the Poverty Line," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 55(3), pages 327-332, August.
    3. Madden, David, 2000. "Relative or Absolute Poverty Lines: A New Approach," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(2), pages 181-199, June.
    4. Frank, Robert H, 1997. "The Frame of Reference as a Public Good," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1832-1847, November.
    5. Bell, Linda A. & Freeman, Richard B., 2001. "The incentive for working hard: explaining hours worked differences in the US and Germany," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 181-202, May.
    6. Huberman, Michael & Minns, Chris, 2007. "The times they are not changin': Days and hours of work in Old and New Worlds, 1870-2000," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 538-567, October.
    7. ED Diener & Carol Diener, 1995. "The wealth of nations revisited: Income and quality of life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 275-286, November.
    8. Huberman, Michael, 2004. "Working Hours of the World Unite? New International Evidence of Worktime, 1870 1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(04), pages 964-1001, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Diego Restuccia & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2014. "Explaining Educational Attainment across Countries and over Time," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 824-841, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    hours; wages;

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • J32 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Nonwage Labor Costs and Benefits; Retirement Plans; Private Pensions

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