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Globalization, Growth and Distribution in Spain 1500-1913

Joan R. Roses, Kevin H. O'Rourke and Jeffrey G. Williamson

The endogenous growth literature has explored the transition from a Malthusian world where real wages, living standards and labor productivity are all linked to factor endowments, to one where (endogenous) productivity change embedded in modern industrial growth breaks that link. Recently, economic historians have presented evidence from England showing that the dramatic reversal in distributional trends – from a steep secular fall in wage-land rent ratios before 1800 to a steep secular rise thereafter – must be explained both by industrial revolutionary growth forces and by global forces that opened up the English economy to international trade. This paper explores whether and how the relationship was different for Spain, a country which had relatively poor productivity growth in agriculture and low living standards prior to 1800, was a late-comer to industrialization afterwards, and adopted very restrictive policies towards imports for much of the 19th century. The failure of Spanish wage-rental ratios to undergo a sustained rise after 1840 can be attributed to the delayed fall in relative agricultural prices (due to those protective policies) and to the decline in Spanish manufacturing productivity after 1898.

JEL classification: F1, N7, O4
Key words: Growth, distribution, globalization, Spain

Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).