Tuesday, July 10, 2007

L&S: Wages and Inequality Through History

John Majewski is now presenting on the Industrial Revolution. We haven't blogged much on John's lectures so far, mainly (I think) because the material has actually been new to the rest of the faculty -- we've been paying close attention instead of blogging reactions.

John just displayed a graph showing the path of real wages, for several different groups, from the latter half of the 1700s to the middle 1800s. As John notes, the graph shows a fairly steady rise in real wages for all groups, from lowly farm workers to white-collar workers, over that period. What John doesn't note is that inequality also increased over the period, as the white-collar workers' wages rose more quickly. Consequently, if we looked only at percentages of income, it would appear that the rich got richer while the poor got poorer. But in fact, everyone got richer in real terms. This theme will come up again when Steve does his lecture on modern-day economic myths.

No comments: