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Unreal wages? Real income and economic growth in England, 1260-1850

Humphries, Jane and Weisdorf, Jacob (2019) Unreal wages? Real income and economic growth in England, 1260-1850. The Economic Journal, 129 (623). pp. 2867-2887. ISSN 0013-0133

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Identification Number: 10.1093/ej/uez017


Estimates of historical workers' annual incomes suffer from the fundamental problem that they are inferred from day wage rates without knowing how many days of work day-labourers undertook per year. We circumvent the problem by building an income series based on the payments made to workers employed by the year rather than by the day. Our data suggest that earlier annual income estimates based on day wages overestimate medieval labour incomes but underestimate labour incomes during the Industrial Revolution. Our revised estimates indicate that modern economic growth began more than two centuries earlier than commonly thought and was driven by an 'Industrious Revolution'. They also suggest that the current global downturn in labour's share is not exceptional but fits within the range of historical fluctuations.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 Royal Economic Society
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
JEL classification: J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J3 - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J4 - Particular Labor Markets
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J5 - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, and Vacancies
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J7 - Labor Discrimination
J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J8 - Labor Standards: National and International
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2018 11:23
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2020 00:14

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