Australian squatters, convicts, and capitalists: dividing up a fast‐growing frontier pie, 1821–71

Laura Panza, Jeffrey G. Williamson
Published Online:
05 Jun 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Early View Articles

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Compared with its competitors, Australian GDP per worker grew exceptionally quickly from the 1820s to the 1870s, at a rate about twice that of the US and three times that of Britain. Did this rapid growth produce rising inequality, following a Kuznets curve? Using a novel dataset, this article offers new evidence that provides unambiguous support for the view that, in sharp contrast with the US experience and with globalization‐inequality views concerning late nineteenth‐century frontiers, Australia underwent a revolutionary levelling in incomes up to the 1870s. This assessment is based on trends in many proxies for inequality, as well as annual estimates of functional income shares in the form of land rents, convict payments, free unskilled labour incomes, free skilled labour and white collar incomes, British imperial transfers, and a capitalist residual.

© Economic History Society 2018

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