Posts Tagged ‘incomes’

Economic historians studying early America remind one of archaeologists studying prehistoric civilizations. Instead of piecing together pot shards and bone splinters to help imagine cultural practices many millennia ago, the historians piece together fragments of tax records, tattered business ledgers, town regulations, and a few partial censuses (and sometimes pot shards and bones, as well) to describe our economy about three centuries ago.



Writing in the current Journal of Economic History, Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, esteemed scholars of American economic development, put together a picture of Americans’ incomes before and after the Revolution (gated here; earlier pdf version here.). By interconnecting complex varieties of data, they are able to estimate incomes and standards of living in American households in 1774 and in 1800.

At least three fascinating stories emerge: the cost of American independence, the fall of the South, and the roots of America’s image as the land of economic equality.


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