The Journal of Economic History



ARTICLES

REAL INEQUALITY IN EUROPE SINCE 1500


Philip T. Hoffman c1, David S. Jacks c2, Patricia A. Levin c3 and Peter H. Lindert c4

Abstract

Introducing a concept of real, as opposed to nominal, inequality of income or wealth suggests some historical reinterpretations, buttressed by a closer look at consumption by the rich. The purchasing powers of different income classes depend on how relative prices move. Relative prices affected real inequality more strongly in earlier centuries than in the twentieth. Between 1500 and about 1800, staple food and fuels became dearer, while luxury goods, especially servants, became cheaper, greatly widening the inequality of lifestyles. Peace, industrialization, and globalization reversed this inegalitarian price effect in the nineteenth century, at least for England.


Correspondence:
c1 Philip T. Hoffman, California Institute of Technology.
c2 David S. Jacks, University of California, Davis.
c3 Patricia A. Levin, University of California, Davis.
c4 Peter Lindert, Agricultural History Center, University of California, Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA 95616. E-mail: phlindert@ucdavis.edu.


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