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Persistently egalitarian? Swedish income inequality in 1613 and the four-estate parliament

Andersson, Martin and Molinder, Jakob (2022). Persistently egalitarian? Swedish income inequality in 1613 and the four-estate parliament. (NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
, Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet. Lund papers in economic history ; 2022:235
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Abstract

There is a widespread perception that present-day Nordic egalitarianism is the outcome of a long historical continuity, where the strong political position of peasant farmers and weak feudalism were marking characteristics of pre-industrial society. However, little empirical evidence so far exists on the distribution of income for the early modern period. In this paper, we draw on the schedule and individual assessments devised by the authorities to distribute the tax-burden associated with the Älvsborg ransom to estimate income inequality and the share of income accruing to top income earners and to different social groups in the Swedish realm (present-day Sweden and Finland) in 1613. Using this information, we are able to speak to several debates on pre-industrial distribution of income and historical inequality in the Nordic countries. We find that the income share of the richest one percent was 13 percent while the share of the top 0.01 percent stood at 2 percent. Sweden was characterized by a twopronged social structure where a large share of income was held by the absolute top as well as by the peasants who made up the majority of the population, while the nobility, clergy, burghers and other middle-rank groups held relatively small income shares not least due to their small population numbers. This finding helps explain the relatively strong position of peasants as a fourth estate within the early modern Swedish parliament. While Sweden in the early seventeenth century was relatively equal compared to other contemporary societies, the egalitarian social structure was upended over the subsequent centuries resulting in vast economic and political inequality by the late nineteenth century. Thus, there is no apparent continuity between early modern equality and post-WW2 egalitarianism.

Authors/Creators:Andersson, Martin and Molinder, Jakob
Title:Persistently egalitarian? Swedish income inequality in 1613 and the four-estate parliament
Series Name/Journal:Lund papers in economic history
Year of publishing :2022
Number:2022:235
Number of Pages:44
Publisher:Department of Economic history, Lund University
ISSN:1101-346X
Language:English
Publication Type:Report
Article category:Other scientific
Version:Published version
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 6 Humanities > 601 History and Archaeology > History
(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 5 Social Sciences > 502 Economics and Business > Economic History
Keywords:inequality, income distribution, top incomes, Sweden, early modern period
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-116238
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-p-116238
Alternative URL:https://portal.research.lu.se/en/publications/persistently-egalitarian-swedish-income-inequality-in-1613-and-th
ID Code:27272
Faculty:NJ - Fakulteten för naturresurser och jordbruksvetenskap
Department:(NL, NJ) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Urban and Rural Development
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:08 Mar 2022 06:25
Metadata Last Modified:17 May 2022 02:36

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