The evolution of inequality in Australasia and the River Plate 1870 - 1914

Produced by: 
Universidad de la República - Uruguay
Available from: 
September 2013
Paper author(s): 
Jorge Álvarez Scanniello
Topic: 
Globalization and Trade
Infraestructure, Transport and Water
Politics and Economy
Year: 
2013

In the last ten years, economic historians have become increasingly interested in the effects of the first globalisation (1870 – 1914) on income distribution. It is thought that in regions of European settlement, with abundant land and a scarcity of workers, inequality increased over the period. However, countries like Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay not only received immigrants from Europe but also expanded their national frontiers. These countries underwent changing endowments of these factors (population and land) during the first globalization, and this calls for an analysis of the evolution of inequality considering the specific impacts of these contradictory trends.

The aim of this article is to present evidence about the evolution of the wage/rental ratio in four provinces in Argentina (Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Entre Ríos and Santa Fé) and four states in Australia (Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia) during the first globalisation of capitalism. We compare these trends with those in two small countries, New Zealand and Uruguay. We also analyse the processes of frontier expansion in each case with a focus on the institutions that regulated the distribution of land ownership rights.

The evidence from this approach, which is centred on frontier expansion and domestic institutions, indicates that increasing inequality was the dominant trend in some cases but not all. We also found that, in the context of the first globalisation, domestic institutions contributed to the formation of income distribution patterns that were different in Australasia to those in the River Plate countries.

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