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Living Standards in the PastNew Perspectives on Well-Being in Asia and Europe$
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Robert C. Allen, Tommy Bengtsson, and Martin Dribe

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280681

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199280681.001.0001

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Economic Growth, Human Capital Formation and Consumption in Western Europe Before 1800

Economic Growth, Human Capital Formation and Consumption in Western Europe Before 1800

Chapter:
(p.195) 8 Economic Growth, Human Capital Formation and Consumption in Western Europe Before 1800
Source:
Living Standards in the Past
Author(s):

Jaime Reis

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199280681.003.0009

Argues that during the early modern period in Europe living standards gradually rose not only because probate inventories reveal that people were acquiring more and better quality durable goods. They were also increasingly allocating resources to the acquisition of the skills of literacy. Partly, this human capital served to enhance their productivity and earning ability, but it also served for pleasure, edification and gaining status and to this extent it should be considered as a consumer durable too. A quantitative exercise tries to show that if this is factored into the more traditional ‘material consumption’ approach, it can lead to a significant reconsideration of the standard of living debate, in particular, as regards the eighteenth century.

Keywords:   book ownership, books, Europe, human capital, literacy, living standards, material consumption, schooling

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