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Quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century

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  • Blum, Matthias
  • Colvin, Christopher L.
  • McAtackney, Laura
  • McLaughlin, Eoin

Abstract

Geary and Stark find that Ireland´s Post-Famine per capita GDP converged with British levels, and that this convergence was due to TFP growth rather than mass emigration. We devise new long-run measurements of human capital accumulation in Ireland in order to facilitate an assessment of sources of this TFP growth, including the relative contribution of men and women. We do so by exploiting the frequency at which age data heap at round ages, a measure that has been widely interpreted as an indicator of a population´s basic numeracy skills. Because Földvári, Van Leeuwen and Van Leeuwen-Li find that gender-specific trends in this measure derived from census returns are biased by who is reporting and recording the age information, we correct any computed numeracy trends using data from prison and workhouse registers, sources in which women self-reported their age. We find that rural Irish women born early in the nineteenth century had substantially lower levels of human capital than uncorrected census data would otherwise suggest. Our results are large in magnitude and economically significant. The speed at which women converged is consistent with Geary and Stark´s interpretation of Irish economic history; Ireland likely graduated to Europe´s club of advanced economies thanks in part to rapid advances in female human capital.

Suggested Citation

  • Blum, Matthias & Colvin, Christopher L. & McAtackney, Laura & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2015. "Quantifying human capital accumulation in rural Ireland in the nineteenth century," QUCEH Working Paper Series 15-09, Queen's University Belfast, Queen's University Centre for Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:qucehw:1509
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    Cited by:

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    2. Matthias Blum & Christopher L. Colvin & Eoin McLaughlin, 2017. "Scarring and Selection in the Great Irish Famine," Discussion Papers in Environment and Development Economics 2017-10, University of St. Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development.
    3. Èric Gómez-i-Aznar, 2019. "Human capital at the beginnings of the 18th century Catalonia: age-heaping and numeracy in a changing economy," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1904, Asociación Española de Historia Económica.
    4. Brian A'Hearn & Alexia Delfino & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2022. "Rethinking age heaping: a cautionary tale from nineteenth‐century Italy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(1), pages 111-137, February.
    5. Tyler Anbinder & Dylan Connor & Cormac Ó Gráda & Simone Wegge, 2021. "The Problem of False Positives in Automated Census Linking: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century New York's Irish Immigrants," Working Papers 202114, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    6. Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2021. "Death, demography and the denominator: Age-adjusted Influenza-18 mortality in Ireland," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 41(C).
    7. Colvin, Christopher L. & McLaughlin, Eoin, 2020. "Death, demography and the denominator: New Influenza-18 mortality estimates for Ireland," SRERC Working Paper Series SRERCWP2020-2, University College Cork (UCC), Spatial and Regional Economic Research Centre (SRERC).
    8. Matthias Blum & Karl†Peter Krauss, 2018. "Age heaping and numeracy: looking behind the curtain," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(2), pages 464-479, May.
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    10. Rafael González-Val & Pau Insa-Sánchez & Julio Martinez-Galarraga & Daniel A. Tirado-Fabregat, 2022. "Market access, the skill premium and human capital in Spain (1860-1930)," Working Papers 0229, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    11. A'Hearn, Brian & Delfino, Alexia & Nuvolari, Alessandro, 2019. "Cognition, Culture, and State Capacity: Age-Heaping in XIX Century Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 14261, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    age heaping; female numeracy; selection bias; prisons; workhouses; Ireland;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence

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