Unreal Wages? Real Income and Economic Growth in England, 1260-1850

62 Pages Posted: 2 May 2017

See all articles by Jane Humphries

Jane Humphries

University of Oxford - Department of Modern History

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Date Written: April 2017

Abstract

Existing accounts of workers' earnings in the past suffer from the fundamental problem that annual incomes are inferred from day wages without knowing the length of the working year. We circumvent this problem by presenting a novel income series for male workers employed on annual contracts. We use evidence of labour market arbitrage to argue that existing estimates of annual incomes in England are badly off target, because they overestimate the medieval working year but underestimate the working year during the industrial revolution. Our revised income estimates suggests that modern economic growth began more than two centuries earlier than commonly thought and was driven by an early and continuing "Industrious Revolution".

Keywords: England; Industrial Revolution; Industrious Revolution; Labour Supply; Living standards; Malthusian Model; Real Wages

JEL Classification: J3, J4, J5, J6, J7, J8, N33

Suggested Citation

Humphries, Jane and Weisdorf, Jacob Louis, Unreal Wages? Real Income and Economic Growth in England, 1260-1850 (April 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP11999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2961761

Jane Humphries (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Department of Modern History ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford OX1 3PG, Oxfordshire OX1 3PG
United Kingdom

Jacob Louis Weisdorf

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Ă˜ster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark

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