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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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Standards of Living in Eighteenth-Century China: Regional Differences, Temporal Trends, and Incomplete Evidence

Standards of Living in Eighteenth-Century China: Regional Differences, Temporal Trends, and Incomplete Evidence

Chapter:
(p.23) 1 Standards of Living in Eighteenth-Century China: Regional Differences, Temporal Trends, and Incomplete Evidence
Source:
Living Standards in the Past
Author(s):

Kenneth Pomeranz

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199280681.003.0002

Attempts to reconstruct basic aspects of the standard of living in late eighteenth century China, focusing primarily on the Yangzi Delta (China’s richest region) but also briefly considering other areas, and arguing that for most of the population it was probably broadly comparable to Western Europe at the same time. Food supply is evaluated in terms of average availability of calories and protection from fluctuations; protein intake is also discussed, though more speculatively. Income distribution and evidence concerning consumption of textiles, sugar, tea, and so on are also considered. Since the estimates in this study in many cases are higher than what was found in early twentieth-century surveys, the chapter also explains why it is plausible to think that the standard of living may have declined between the late eighteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Keywords:   calories, China, Food supply, Income distribution, protein, standard of living, subsistence security, textiles, Yangzi Delta

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