Class Structure and Inequality During the Industrial Revolution: Lessons from England's Social Tables, 1688–1867

38 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2019

See all articles by Robert C. Allen

Robert C. Allen

University of Oxford - Nuffield College; New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Date Written: February 2019

Abstract

This article measures the size and incomes of six major social classes across the industrial revolution using social tables for England and Wales in 1688, 1759, 1798, 1846, and 1867. Lindert and Williamson famously revised these tables, and this article extends their work in three directions. First, servants are removed from middle‐ and upper‐class households in the tables of King, Massie, and Colquhoun and tallied separately. Second, estimates are made for the same tables of the number and incomes of women and children employed in the various occupations, and, third, incomes are broken down into rents, profits, and employment income. These extensions to the tables allow variables to be computed that can be checked against independent estimates as a validation exercise. The tables are retabulated in a standardized set of six social groups to highlight the changing structure of society across the industrial revolution. Gini coefficients are computed from the social tables to measure inequality. These measures confirm that Britain traversed a ‘Kuznets curve’ in this period. Changes in overall inequality are related to the changing fortunes of the major social classes.

Suggested Citation

Allen, Robert C., Class Structure and Inequality During the Industrial Revolution: Lessons from England's Social Tables, 1688–1867 (February 2019). The Economic History Review, Vol. 72, Issue 1, pp. 88-125, 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3317728 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ehr.12661

Robert C. Allen (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

PO Box 129188
Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

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