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Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy’s regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861 - 1936

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  • Gabriele Cappelli

Abstract

- The present paper explores the role of public policy in the development of Italy’s human capital in the late 19th century and the Interwar period. It aims at understanding whether a system of decentralized primary education slowed down regional convergence in schooling. This work puts forward the hypothesis that, under such a system, the country was subject to a human capital trap – since poor and backward areas could not afford to invest a suitable amount of resources in schooling. Additionally, it investigates whether a more centralized system, introduced in 1911, loosened up the trap, fostered the accumulation of human capital and reduced the country’s regional disparities. Original qualitative evidence and new data on schooling confirm the existence of such a trap, and underline the positive role of centralization in the Interwar period. The econometric model implemented strengthens these findings: poor regions could not improve the quality of education, which in turn would give rise to a vicious circle. Centralized primary education certainly fostered the development of Italy’s schooling in the Interwar period. However, human capital regional disparities across the country persisted, a result that calls for further research on the topic.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriele Cappelli, 2013. "Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy’s regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861 - 1936," Department of Economics University of Siena 688, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:688
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    2. Giorgio Brosio, 2018. "Coercion and equity with centralization of government: how the unification of Italy impacted the southern regions," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 177(3), pages 235-264, December.
    3. Carlo Ciccarelli & Jacob Weisdorf, 2019. "Pioneering into the past: Regional literacy developments in Italy before Italy," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 329-364.
    4. Anna Missiaia, 2019. "Market versus endowment: explaining early industrial location in Italy (1871–1911)," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 13(1), pages 127-161, January.
    5. Montalbo, Adrien, 2021. "Schools without a law: Primary education in France from the Revolution to the Guizot Law," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    6. Paolo Di Martino & Emanuele Felice & Michelangelo Vasta, 2017. "The curious case of the coexistence of two “access-orders”: Explaining the Italian regional divide," Department of Economics University of Siena 758, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    7. Ralph Hippe & Maciej Jakubowski & Luisa De Sousa Lobo Borges de Araujo, 2018. "Regional inequalities in PISA: the case of Italy and Spain," JRC Working Papers JRC109057, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    8. Andersson, Jens & Berger, Thor, 2016. "Elites and the Expansion of Education in 19th-century Sweden," Lund Papers in Economic History 149, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    9. Giorgio Brosio, 2017. "Equalization transfers and convergence between federal and unitary systems: A contribution to their historical analysis," ECONOMIA PUBBLICA, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2017(3), pages 21-66.
    10. Gabriele Cappelli, 2016. "One size that didn’t fit all? Electoral franchise, fiscal capacity and the rise of mass schooling across Italy’s provinces, 1870–1911," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 10(3), pages 311-343, September.
    11. Giorgio Brosio, 2017. "Equalization transfers and convergence between federal and unitary systems: a contribution to their historical analysis," Working papers 61, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.
    12. Francisco J. Beltrán Tapia & Alfonso Díez-Minguela & Julio Martínez-Galarraga & Daniel A. Tirado, 2019. "The uneven transition towards universal literacy in Spain, 1860-1930," Working Papers 0173, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    13. Enrico Berbenni & Stefano Colombo, 2021. "The impact of pandemics: revising the Spanish Flu in Italy in light of models’ predictions, and some lessons for the Covid-19 pandemic," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 48(2), pages 219-243, June.
    14. Paola Azar & Sergio Espuelas, 2021. "Democracy and primary education spending in Spain, 1902-22," UB Economics Working Papers 2021/409, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB School of Economics.
    15. Marchingiglio, Riccardo, 2021. "Local institutions and public school spending under restricted suffrage: The case of post-unitary Italy," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 188(C), pages 1351-1373.
    16. Esther Hauk & Javier Ortega, 2021. "Schooling, nation building and industrialization," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 33(1), pages 56-94, January.
    17. Emanuele Felice, 2017. "The socio-institutional divide. Explaining Italy's regional inequality over the long run," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 503, Collegio Carlo Alberto.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O20 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - General

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