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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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Sketching the Rise of Real Inequality in Early Modern Europe

Sketching the Rise of Real Inequality in Early Modern Europe

(p.131) 6 Sketching the Rise of Real Inequality in Early Modern Europe
Living Standards in the Past

Philip T. Hoffman

David S. Jacks

Patricia A. Levin

Peter H. Lindert

Oxford University Press

The concept of real, as opposed to nominal or conventional, income inequality reveals pronounced inequality movements, because relative prices happened to move very differently for the poor and the rich before 1914. Between 1500 and 1790 to 1815, the prices of staple foods rose much more than the prices of what the rich consumed. This greatly magnified the rise in real-income inequality. The opposite happened between 1815 and 1914. Looking at life expectancy, rather than at annual income or consumption, we again find a widening of inequality in the eighteenth century, at least within the countries of Western Europe.

Keywords:   early modern era, Europe, inequality, life expectancy, real income

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