DP11999 | Unreal Wages? Real Income and Economic Growth in England, 1260-1850

Publication Date

04/27/2017

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Abstract

Existing accounts of workers’ earnings in the past suffer from the fundamental problem that annual incomes are inferred from day wages without knowing the length of the working year. We circumvent this problem by presenting a novel income series for male workers employed on annual contracts. We use evidence of labour market arbitrage to argue that existing estimates of annual incomes in England are badly off target, because they overestimate the medieval working year but underestimate the working year during the industrial revolution. Our revised income estimates suggests that modern economic growth began more than two centuries earlier than commonly thought and was driven by an early and continuing ‘Industrious Revolution’.