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Real Wages in Early Economies: Evidence for Living Standards from 1800 BCE to 1300 CE

27 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2008 Last revised: 22 May 2009

Walter Scheidel

Stanford University

Date Written: April 18, 2009

Abstract

Price and wage data from Roman Egypt in the first three centuries CE indicate levels of real income for unskilled workers that are comparable to those implied by price and wage data in Diocletian's price edict of 301 CE and to those documented in different parts of Europe and Asia in the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries. In all these cases, consumption was largely limited to goods that were essential for survival and living standards were very low. A survey of daily wages expressed in terms of wheat in different Afroeurasian societies from 1800 BCE to 1300 CE yields similar results: with only few exceptions, real incomes of unskilled laborers tended to be very low.

Keywords: Wages, real wages, unskilled labor, living standards, incomes

JEL Classification: E24, J31, N30, N33, N35

Suggested Citation

Scheidel, Walter, Real Wages in Early Economies: Evidence for Living Standards from 1800 BCE to 1300 CE (April 18, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1114424 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1114424

Walter Scheidel (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-2145
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www,stanford.edu/~scheidel

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