Relative Costs of Living, for Richer and Poorer, 1688-1914

49 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2019

See all articles by Vincent Geloso

Vincent Geloso

Bates College; University of Western Ontario - King's University College

Peter H. Lindert

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: March 26, 2019

Abstract

The kinds of goods that richer and poorer households consumed differed more strongly in the past than today. Movements in the relative prices of luxury goods versus staples caused the real inequality to oscillate in ways missed by the usual historiography of (nominal) inequality. On both sides of the North Atlantic and in Australia, real inequality rose significantly less in 1800-1914 than the literature on nominal inequality has revealed. The reasons for this relate to the relative decline of food prices, rural-urban price gaps, and the delayed rise of luxury service prices, especially after 1850. Throughout these centuries, the North Americans enjoyed lower living costs than their counterparts in Western Europe.

Keywords: Cost of living, inequality, price history, economic history

JEL Classification: N10, N30

Suggested Citation

Geloso, Vincent and Lindert, Peter H., Relative Costs of Living, for Richer and Poorer, 1688-1914 (March 26, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3360710 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3360710

Vincent Geloso (Contact Author)

Bates College ( email )

Department of Economics
Lewiston, ME
United States

University of Western Ontario - King's University College ( email )

266 Epworth Avenue
London, Ontario N6A 2M3
Canada

Peter H. Lindert

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Ave
Davis, CA 95616
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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