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The dynamics of inequality in a newly settled, preindustrial society: The case of the Cape Colony

  • Johan Fourie
  • Dieter von Fintel

Inequality is a major concern in many of the world’s developing regions. South Africa is no exception, as the voluminous literature on the subject attests to (see Bhorat and Kanbur 2006, for example). Indeed, modern South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world, primarily as a result of institutionalised inequality under colonial segregation and Apartheid, but potentially also stemming from the set of institutions created much earlier under Dutch and British colonial rule (Terreblanche 2002). This paper will investigate inequality in the early colonial period. It is apparent in the literature that inequality is severely persistent; countries that exhibit high inequality from early stages of development generally continue to do so later on, while few policy prescriptions are successful in reversing the trend, even in times of high and sustained economic growth.

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Paper provided by Economic Research Southern Africa in its series Working Papers with number 134.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:134
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  1. Keen, Michael, 1986. "Zero Expenditures and the Estimation of Engel Curves," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 1(3), pages 277-86, July.
  2. David McKenzie, 2005. "Measuring inequality with asset indicators," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 229-260, 06.
  3. Boshoff, Willem H. & Fourie, Johan, 2010. "The significance of the Cape trade route to economic activity in the Cape Colony: a medium-term business cycle analysis," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(03), pages 469-503, December.
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  5. Jeffrey G. Williamson & Branko Milanovic & Peter H. Lindert, 2008. "Measuring Ancient Inequality," Working Papers 08-06, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC).
  6. Morrisson, Christian, 2000. "Historical perspectives on income distribution: The case of Europe," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 4, pages 217-260 Elsevier.
  7. Kuznets, Simon, 1973. "Modern Economic Growth: Findings and Reflections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(3), pages 247-58, June.
  8. Ewout Frankema, 2010. "The colonial roots of land inequality: geography, factor endowments, or institutions?," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 63(2), pages 418-451, 05.
  9. Chen, Chau-Nan & Tsaur, Tien-Wang & Rhai, Tong-Shieng, 1982. "The Gini Coefficient and Negative Income," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(3), pages 473-78, November.
  10. Champernowne, D G, 1974. "A Comparison of Measures of Inequality of Income Distribution," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 84(336), pages 787-816, December.
  11. Feinstein, Charles, 1988. "The Rise and Fall of the Williamson Curve," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 699-729, September.
  12. Willem Boshoff & Johan Fourie, 2008. "Explaining ship traffic fluctuations in the early Cape settlement: 1652–1793," Working Papers 01/2008, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
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