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Unequal poverty and equal industrialisation: Finnish wealth, 1750–1900

Bengtsson, Erik LU ; Missiaia, Anna LU ; Nummela, Ilkka and Olsson, Mats LU (2018) In Scandinavian Economic History Reveiw
Abstract
We present the first comprehensive, long-run estimates of Finnish wealth and its distribution from 1750 to 1900. Using wealth data from 17,279 probate inventories, we show that Finland was very unequal between 1750 and 1850; the top decile owned about 90% of total wealth. This means that Finland was more unequal than the much wealthier economies Britain, France and the US, which goes against the common assumption of richer economies being more unequal. Moreover, when industrialisation took off in Finland, inequality started a downward trajectory. High inequality 1750–1850 was bottom-driven, by a large share of the population owning nothing or close to nothing of value, while economic development after 1850 was pro-equal since the ownership... (More)
We present the first comprehensive, long-run estimates of Finnish wealth and its distribution from 1750 to 1900. Using wealth data from 17,279 probate inventories, we show that Finland was very unequal between 1750 and 1850; the top decile owned about 90% of total wealth. This means that Finland was more unequal than the much wealthier economies Britain, France and the US, which goes against the common assumption of richer economies being more unequal. Moreover, when industrialisation took off in Finland, inequality started a downward trajectory. High inequality 1750–1850 was bottom-driven, by a large share of the population owning nothing or close to nothing of value, while economic development after 1850 was pro-equal since the ownership of forests, since long in the hands of the peasantry, became more valuable with the development of forest-based industries. Our findings thus contradict commonplace assumptions that economic growth and industrialisation are associated with more inequality, as well as recent arguments that very few factors beyond catastrophes can decrease inequality. We instead argue for a more inductive and open approach to the determinants of long-run inequality. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
epub
subject
keywords
Inequality, Wealth, Finland, probate inventories, Social structure
in
Scandinavian Economic History Reveiw
publisher
Routledge
external identifiers
  • scopus:85057605294
ISSN
0358-5522
DOI
10.1080/03585522.2018.1546614
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
972f3ee1-98ac-4d95-a993-98bb24f5e67b
date added to LUP
2018-11-30 12:06:10
date last changed
2019-02-20 11:38:34
@article{972f3ee1-98ac-4d95-a993-98bb24f5e67b,
  abstract     = {We present the first comprehensive, long-run estimates of Finnish wealth and its distribution from 1750 to 1900. Using wealth data from 17,279 probate inventories, we show that Finland was very unequal between 1750 and 1850; the top decile owned about 90% of total wealth. This means that Finland was more unequal than the much wealthier economies Britain, France and the US, which goes against the common assumption of richer economies being more unequal. Moreover, when industrialisation took off in Finland, inequality started a downward trajectory. High inequality 1750–1850 was bottom-driven, by a large share of the population owning nothing or close to nothing of value, while economic development after 1850 was pro-equal since the ownership of forests, since long in the hands of the peasantry, became more valuable with the development of forest-based industries. Our findings thus contradict commonplace assumptions that economic growth and industrialisation are associated with more inequality, as well as recent arguments that very few factors beyond catastrophes can decrease inequality. We instead argue for a more inductive and open approach to the determinants of long-run inequality.},
  author       = {Bengtsson, Erik and Missiaia, Anna and Nummela, Ilkka and Olsson, Mats},
  issn         = {0358-5522},
  keyword      = {Inequality,Wealth,Finland,probate inventories,Social structure},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {11},
  publisher    = {Routledge},
  series       = {Scandinavian Economic History Reveiw},
  title        = {Unequal poverty and equal industrialisation: Finnish wealth, 1750–1900},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03585522.2018.1546614},
  year         = {2018},
}