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portada HE nº 66
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Henry Willebald

Distributive patterns in settler economies: agricultural income inequality during the First Globalization (1870-1913)


The aim of this paper is to identify different distributive patterns in the settler economies of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay during the First Globalization (1870-1913). As agriculture was the most important activity in settler economies and the main sector that led to land expansion on the frontier, a study of the process of income generation and the evolution of distribution in this sector is of great interest. The empirical research offered here includes a discussion of the research methodology, the results and some conjectures about long-run inequalities. First, agricultural income (or product) per worker is estimated and, based on a shift-share approach, the relative performance of the countries in the ‘club’ is analysed, focusing on (total and sector) growth and convergence. Then the functional income distribution is presented (total wages, land rents and profits) and two distributive patterns are discussed. On the one hand, former British territories promoted capitalist relations with relatively high wages and profits that encouraged larger markets and greater investment. In contrast, former Spanish colonies had economic relations based on agrarian rents, which made for income concentration and low stimulus to capital accumulation. During this period income distribution worsened in the Australasian economies and Canada, but it deteriorated even more significantly in the South American Southern Cone. These differences among settler economies are consistent with dissimilar dynamics of expansion into new land and the consolidation of institutional arrangements that caused contrasting patterns of distribution.

KEY WORDS: agriculture, functional income distribution, settler economies, First Globalization, land ownership

JEL Codes: N36, N37, N56, N57

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