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The evolution of inequality in Australasia and the River Plate, 1870-1914


  • Jorge Álvarez

    () (Programa de Historia Económica y Social, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de la República)


In the last ten years, economic historians have become increasingly interested in the effects of the first globalisation (1870 – 1914) on income distribution. It is thought that in regions of European settlement, with abundant land and a scarcity of workers, inequality increased over the period. However, countries like Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay not only received immigrants from Europe but also expanded their national frontiers. These countries underwent changing endowments of these factors (population and land) during the first globalization, and this calls for an analysis of the evolution of inequality considering the specific impacts of these contradictory trends. The aim of this article is to present evidence about the evolution of the wage/rental ratio in four provinces in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Entre Ríos and Santa Fé) and four states in Australia (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia) during the first globalisation of capitalism. We compare these trends with those in two small countries, New Zealand and Uruguay. We also analyse the processes of frontier expansion in each case with a focus on the institutions that regulated the distribution of land ownership rights. The evidence from this approach, which is centred on frontier expansion and domestic institutions, indicates that increasing inequality was the dominant trend in some cases but not all. We also found that, in the context of the first globalisation, domestic institutions contributed to the formation of income distribution patterns that were different in Australasia to those in the River Plate countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Jorge Álvarez, 2013. "The evolution of inequality in Australasia and the River Plate, 1870-1914," Documentos de trabajo 31, Programa de Historia Económica, FCS, Udelar.
  • Handle: RePEc:ude:doctra:31

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Álvarez, Jorge & Bilancini, Ennio & D'Alessandro, Simone & Porcile, Gabriel, 2011. "Agricultural institutions, industrialization and growth: The case of New Zealand and Uruguay in 1870-1940," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 151-168, April.
    2. Taylor, Alan M., 1994. "Tres fases del crecimiento económico argentino," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 649-683, December.
    3. Douglass C. North, 1995. "Some Fundamental Puzzles In Economic History/Development," Economic History 9509001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Newland, Carlos, 1999. "El sector agropecuario argentino en el período entresiglos (crecimiento económico e intensidad de factores). una revisión historiográfica," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(S1), pages 225-234, March.
    5. Peter H. Lindert & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2003. "Does Globalization Make the World More Unequal?," NBER Chapters,in: Globalization in Historical Perspective, pages 227-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2004. "Institutions as the Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," NBER Working Papers 10481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. David Greasley & Kris Inwood & John Singleton, 2007. "Factor Prices And Income Distribution In Less Industrialised Economies 1870-1939," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 47(1), pages 1-5, March.
    8. Willebald Remedios, Henry Francisco & Rodríguez, Javier & Castelnovo, Cecilia & Bértola, Luis, 2008. "Income distribution in the Latin American Southern Cone during the first globalization boom, ca: 1870-1920," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp08-05, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.
    9. MartinP. Shanahan & JohnK. Wilson, 2007. "Measuring Inequality Trends In Colonial Australia Using Factor-Price Ratios: The Importance Of Boundaries," Australian Economic History Review, Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 47(1), pages 6-21, March.
    10. O'Rourke, Kevin H & Taylor, Alan M & Williamson, Jeffrey G, 1996. "Factor Price Convergence in the Late Nineteenth Century," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 37(3), pages 499-530, August.
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    More about this item


    prices of the factors; income distribution; settler economies; River Plate; Australasia; first globalization;

    JEL classification:

    • N26 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N27 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Africa; Oceania
    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • N37 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Africa; Oceania

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