Unequal poverty and equal industrialisation : Finnish wealth, 1750-1900
Bengtsson, E., Missiaia, A., Nummela, I., & Olsson, M. (2019). Unequal poverty and equal industrialisation : Finnish wealth, 1750-1900. Scandinavian Economic History Review, 67(3), 229-248. https://doi.org/10.1080/03585522.2018.1546614
Published inScandinavian Economic History Review
© 2018 The Author(s)
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. ...
PublisherScandinavian Society for Economic and Social History and Historical Geography
ISSN Search the Publication Forum0358-5522
Publication in research information system
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Additional information about fundingWork on the paper has been supported by the grants ‘Growth and inequality before the industrial revolution, Scania 1650 to 1850’, financed by the Swedish Research Council, grant 421-2012-1278, and ‘Wages, economic performance and inequality. Scandinavia in the “Little Divergence” in Europe’, financed by Handelsbankens forskningsstiftelser, grant P2014-0070:1.
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