DP3394 From Malthus to Ohlin: Trade, Growth and Distribution Since 1500

Author(s): Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, Jeffrey G Williamson
Publication Date: May 2002
Keyword(s): distribution, growth, malthus, trade
JEL(s): F10, N10
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics, International Trade and Regional Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=3394

A recent endogenous growth literature has focused on the transition from a Malthusian world where real wages were linked to factor endowments, to one where modern growth has broken that link. In this Paper we present evidence on another, related phenomenon: the dramatic reversal in distributional trends – from a steep secular fall to a steep secular rise in wage-land rent ratios – which occurred some time early in the 19th century. What explains this reversal? While it may seem logical to locate the causes in the Industrial Revolutionary forces emphasized by endogenous growth theorists, we provide evidence that something else mattered just as much: the opening up of the European economy to international trade.