Farmers at the heart of the ‘human capital revolution’? Decomposing the numeracy increase in early modern Europe

Authors:
Franziska Tollnek, Joerg Baten
Published Online:
05 Mar 2017
DOI:
10.1111/ehr.12382
Pages:
779–809
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 70 Issue 3

Additional Options

Did the early development of skills and numerical abilities occur primarily in urban centres and among the elite groups of society? This study assesses the human capital of different occupational groups in the early modern period and partially confirms this finding: skilled and professional groups had higher levels of numeracy and literacy than persons in unskilled occupations. However, there was another large group that developed substantial human capital and represented around one‐third of the total population: farmers. By analysing numeracy and literacy evidence from six countries in Europe and Latin America, we argue that farmers contributed significantly to the formation of human capital and, consequently, to modern economic growth.

© Economic History Society 2017

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