The Political Economy of Status Competition: Sumptuary Laws in Preindustrial Europe

67 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2020

See all articles by Mark Koyama

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Desiree Desierto

University of Rochester

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2020

Abstract

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 newly collected dataset of country and city-level sumptuary laws.

Keywords: political economy, regulation, rent-seeking, Status competition

JEL Classification: D91, K42, N4, N43, Z10

Suggested Citation

Koyama, Mark and Desierto, Desiree, The Political Economy of Status Competition: Sumptuary Laws in Preindustrial Europe (February 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14407, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3547339

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~mkoyama2/About.html

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Desiree Desierto (Contact Author)

University of Rochester ( email )

300 Crittenden Blvd.
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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