From Malthus to Ohlin: Trade, industrialisation and distribution since 1500

Kevin H. O'Rourke, Jeffrey G. Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-34
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Economic Growth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • Income distribution
  • Industrial revolution
  • Trade

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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