Purchase - $5.00

From Farmers to Merchants: A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish Economic History

44 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2003  

Maristella Botticini

Bocconi University - Department of Economics

Zvi Eckstein

The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2003

Abstract

Since the Middle Ages the Jews have been engaged primarily in urban, skilled occupations, such as crafts, trade, finance and medicine. This distinctive occupational selection occurred between the seventh and the ninth centuries in the Muslim Empire and spread to other locations. We argue that this transition was the outcome of the widespread literacy among Jews prompted by an educational reform in the first century CE. Based on the growing nexus between education and Judaism in the first half of the millennium, we build a model in which Jewish men choose education, occupation, religion and location. The model predicts that when urbanization expands (as it did in the Muslim Empire), Jews move to new cities due to their comparative advantage in urban, skilled occupations. Furthermore, before urbanization a proportion of Jewish farmers are predicted to convert to other religions. The predictions of the model regarding conversions, migrations and reduction in the size of the Jewish population are consistent with historical evidence from the first millennium provided by historians. Hence, our study presents evidence for the long-term economic implications of changes in social norms.

Keywords: Jewish economic history, human capital, religion, social norms, migration, occupational choice, first millenium

JEL Classification: J10, J20, N30, O10

Suggested Citation

Botticini, Maristella and Eckstein, Zvi, From Farmers to Merchants: A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish Economic History (January 2003). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 3718. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=379500

Maristella Botticini (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Economics ( email )

Via Gobbi 5
Milan, 20136
Italy

Zvi Eckstein

The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) ( email )

P. O. Box 167
Herzliya, 69978, PA Pennsylvania 46150
United States
+972 9 9602706 (Phone)
+972 9 9602758 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www1.idc.ac.il/Faculty/Eckstein/index.html

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

77 Bastwick Street
London, EC1V 3PZ
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Paper statistics

Downloads
25
Abstract Views
1,570