Global Disparities Since 1800: Trends and Regional Patterns

Journal of World-Systems Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 36-59, July 2006

35 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2006


This paper reviews the growing body of evidence on the relative economic standing of different regions of the world in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In general, it does not find support for Eurocentric claims regarding Western Europe's early economic lead. The Eurocentric claims are based primarily on estimates of a per capita income, which are plagued by conceptual problems, make demands on historical data that are generally unavailable, and they use questionable assumptions to reconstruct early per capita income. A careful examination of these conjectural estimates of per capita income, however, does not support claims that Western Europe had a substantial lead over the rest of the world at the beginning of the nineteenth century. An examination of several alternative indices of living standards in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries - such as real wages, labor productivity in agriculture, and urbanization - also fails to confirm claims of European superiority. In addition, this paper examines the progress of global disparities - including the presence of regional patterns - using estimates of per capita income.

Keywords: Global economy, Disparities, Regional patterns, Per capita income, Real wages, Labor productivity, Agriculture, Eurocentric

JEL Classification: N0, O1, B1

Suggested Citation

Alam, Mohammad Shahid, Global Disparities Since 1800: Trends and Regional Patterns. Journal of World-Systems Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 36-59, July 2006, Available at SSRN:

Mohammad Shahid Alam (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

220 B RP
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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