Moderate Opulence: The Evolution of Wealth inequality in Mexico in its first century of independence

Gustafscenen Session 5: Global inequality – levels and trends organized by Ellen Hillbom


Diego Castañeda Garza


This article presents the first complete 19th-century reconstruction of the Mexican wealth distribution, from independence to the Mexican Revolution. It uses an often unexploited source in Mexican historiography: will inventories/protocols. In addition, the present article estimates the levels and trends of historical wealth inequality using five different methods, among them the novel application of the properties of two theoretical parametric distributions to the measurement of historical inequality. The dynamics of wealth inequality in 19th century Mexico were dominated by the top 5% of the wealth distribution; meanwhile, the top 10% and bottom 40% demonstrate remarkable stability. This article’s main contributions are the reconstruction of historical wealth inequality combining classic and new methods, examining the distributive forces and their dynamics in a changing political economy environment, and analyzing the historical developments in light of their potential effect on the distribution of economic resources


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