The Political Economy of Status Competition: Sumptuary Laws in Preindustrial Europe
64 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 13, 2020
Sumptuary laws that regulated clothing based on social status were an important part of the political economy of premodern states. We introduce a model that rationalizes the use of sumptuary laws by elites to regulate status competition from below. Our model predicts a non-monotonic effect of income - sumptuary legislation initially increases with income, but then falls as income increases further. The initial rise is more likely for states with less extractive institutions, whose ruling elites face greater status threat from the rising commercial class. We test these predictions using a new dataset of country and city-level sumptuary laws.
Keywords: Status Competition, Political Economy, Economic History
JEL Classification: N3, K4, Z0
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