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Income inequality in pre-industrial Europe

Alfani, Guido, Ryckbosch, Wouter, (2015), “Income inequality in pre-industrial Europe”, Voxeu, 6 November.

Thomas Piketty and others have prompted renewed interest in understanding long-term patterns of inequality. This column presents evidence from pre-industrial Europe. Inequality rose even during the success stories of early modern Europe, but it can hardly have been the sole requisite for growth. In both economic history and today’s economic theory, the idea of a universal trade-off between growth and inequality needs to be replaced by stronger attention to social processes and institutional developments.

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