Inequality in Pre-Industrial Europe (1260–1850): New Evidence From the Labor Share

Giovanni Federico, Alessandro Nuvolari, Michelangelo Vasta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The dynamics of economic inequality and its relationship with economic growth in the preindustrial world is increasingly attracting the attention of both economists and economic historians. In this paper, we tackle this theme by introducing new estimates of the labor share in five major European countries (England, France, Holland, Spain, and Portugal) for the period 1250–1850. Our estimates are constructed using an innovative method based on the conversion of real wages in 2011 PPP $. Overall, we find a complex pattern of evolution of the labor share with major fluctuations. Furthermore, using the inequality possibility frontier (IPF) framework, our results suggest that preindustrial Europe was characterized by a negative relationship between the extraction ratio and GDP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-375
Number of pages29
JournalReview of Income and Wealth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • economic growth
  • economic history
  • long-term inequality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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