Labour, living standards and inequality

Session organizer/s: Erik Bengtsson

Arbetsmarknadens osynliga händer: Icke-offentlig förmedling av arbetare i och från Sverige 1850–1942

Session: 1

Authors: Therese Christoffersson

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: När lönearbete som företeelse blev vanligare i Sverige under 1800-talet, och en lönearbetsmarknad etablerades, spelade olika slags förmedlare av arbetare en betydande logistisk roll. Den första offentliga arbetsförmedlingen öppnades först 1902 i kommunal regi i Halmstad, men icke-offentliga förmedlingar var verksamma under 1800-talet och fortsatte att verka parallellt med den offentliga arbetsförmedlingen fram tills arbetsförmedlingsmonopolets etablering 1942. Exempel på icke-offentliga förmedlingar under tidsperioden i Sverige är kommissionärer, waterschouts, fästekontor, agenter, och diverse föreningars förmedlande verksamheter. De icke-offentliga förmedlingarna var många, små, och specialiserade. Till exempel framkommer det i Riksdagens protokoll att det år 1900 fanns 68 registrerade kommersiella arbetsförmedlare bara i Stockholm. Framför allt var privata förmedlare viktiga för kvinnor som lönearbetade. Dock spelade icke-offentliga förmedlare en betydande roll även för lönearbetsmarknaden som helhet, framför allt i de större städerna. I Lund förmedlades till exempel 49 procent av alla lönearbetare i mitten av 1920-talet fortfarande via icke-offentliga förmedlingar.

Det är denna icke-offentliga förmedling av arbetare som utgör empiriskt fokus för mitt nyligen påbörjade avhandlingsarbete i ekonomisk historia. Syftet med avhandlingen är att visa på hur aktörer på arbetsmarknaden påverkat utformningen av lönearbetet som institution och arbetsmarknadens sammansättning genom sin verksamhet under en kritisk period i Nordens arbetarhistoria. Genom undersökningen om hur arbetsmarknader och arbetarsubjektiviteter skapas genom denna sociala och ekonomiska infrastruktur kommer avhandlingen även att bidra teoretiskt och empiriskt till pågående forskning och diskussion om olika former av förmedling (arbetsförmedling, personaluthyrning och gigarbete) som primärt fokuserat på 1990-talet och framåt.

En hypotes är att förmedlare influerade bland annat geografisk plats, typ av arbete och uppgifter samt villkor genom sin förmedlingsaktivitet. I förlängningen innebär det att förmedlarna producerade differentierade lokala arbetsmarknader baserat på bland annat klass, genus, ålder, regional härkomst och etnicitet. Exempel på frågeställningar som jag just nu laborerar med är: Vilka icke-offentliga aktörer förmedlade arbete och arbetare i Sverige från mitten av 1800-talet fram tills arbetsförmedlingsmonopolet instiftades 1942? Vad förmedlades som arbete och vem förmedlas som arbetare? Hur konstruerades lönearbetet och lönearbetaren genom förmedlingsaktiviteten?

Farmers and farm workers: work organization and social relations on six farms in central Sweden 1850-1910.

Session: 1

Authors: Patrick Svensson

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: During the second half of the nineteenth century conditions for European farming changed radically. Improved transportations made American grain reach Europe, causing prices to fall. The agricultural depression hit large-scale farmers but also affected family farms producing grain. Combined with a general increase in income, connected to industrialization, and thereby a changing demand for food, one way to mitigate these effects was to switch to animal products. Another way was to mechanize grain production, this also to counteract rising wages from the increased demand for labour from industry. Previous research has shown that both these measures led to an on average lower number of hired workers in agriculture, instead using family members as the workforce. However, this observed general development could have different causes. This paper sets out to study whether this tendency was due to a structural shift in the overall composition of farms, or if it was due to changes in work organization on the farms. The second part of the paper investigates whether these potential changes in the work organization affected the relationships between the farmer family and the employed farm workers in terms of social relationships and the well-being of the farm workers.

The Human Cost of Inequality: Race Differentials across Time and Space in Child Mortality in the United States, 1850-1940

Session: 1

Authors: Jonas Helgertz

Co-authors: J David Hacker, Richard Steckel, Nicolas Ziebarth

Abstract: We use a method developed by Hacker and Helgertz to identify child mortality in linked full-count census data. Using these data, we provide estimates of the evolution of the Black child mortality penalty in the United States, both over time and across space (county).

Female labor force participation in census microdata

Session: 2

Authors: Jørgen Modalsli

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: The use of historical census microdata to study individual outcomes and intergenerational mobility has become mainstream in the economic history literature. However, because of uncertainty about how female occupations were reported, most papers focus solely on men.

This project will use a combination of historical data sources to assess female labor force participation in the past. As a starting point, I plan to use the 1910 Norwegian census, from which individual records are available, in combination with other statistical sources such as industry censuses (there was a comprehensive census of industries (fabrikktelling) in 1909) and labor market statistics. Moreover, there are contemporary written sources - the issue of “correct” measurement is frequently discussed in the publications accompanying the printed tables. The project will build on existing economic-historical work on female labor force participation (e.g. Goldin, Humphries, Meerkerk) in conjunction with more recent economics work on comprehensive historical microdata.

Based on preliminary analyses, I expect to find a substantial level of female labor participation even when relying on the census alone; for example, 80 per cent of single and 11 per cent of married 40-year-old women in 1910 are registered with an occupation in census microdata. However, from previous literature, it is expected that combination with industrial and labor statistics will find that women’s formal labor force participation is under-represented in the census, in particular in industrial occupations.

The article will focus on (a) the “true” female formal labor force participation in Norway in 1910, and how the definition of “formal” affects this measurement, (b) the distribution of labor force participation by occupation, geography and marital status, as well as a comparison to male labor force participation and (c) an assessment of how well-suited census microdata is as a source of women’s position in the labor market in the early 1900s.

At this point, the focus of a the work is Norway circa 1910. However, I do not rule out a later extension to other countries (for comparative purposes) or to other Norwegian censuses (to assess a time trend).

Income inequality in Sweden 1870–1970: Evidence from micro data

Session: 2

Authors: Erik Bengtsson

Co-authors: Jakob Molinder, Svante Prado

Abstract: We present new estimates of the market income distribution in Sweden from 1870 to 1970, building on a new 1 % sample of taxpayers in 1870, 1900 and 1920, a 0.5 % sample in 1940 and 1950, the census in 1930 and a 1970 sample of all adult Swedes born on the 15th day of a month. Going beyond the more aggregate level of previous studies of long-run income inequality to micro data with data on individuals, we bring out the importance of jobs and gender, and add a perspective including the entire income distribution, including low-income earners. For those who earned too little to pay tax (in 1900 70 %, in 1950 33 %), we estimate incomes by using other sources. We show that inequality was very high in 1870, decreasing until the 1900s, with a temporary spike of top incomes in 1920. The rural sector was very unequal in 1870 (almost as unequal as the urban). Beyond the rural-urban composition, we also show that domestic service was a very large sector in the beginning of our period, with low wages, and the shift out of domestic service (especially for women) induced greater equality, when people shifted to higher-paid jobs. Generally, the upgrading of working-class jobs to better paid, more skilled jobs is important to understand the equalization of incomes. In 1870 low skilled farm labourers and domestic servants were a large part of the working class but by 1930 the jobs structure had been upgraded. We also investigate the role of capital incomes versus labour incomes for equalization, and themes such as the shift away from farming, the gender gap, and regional and urban-rural income differences.

The Market Mightier Than the Family? A Case Study of Market Transfers and Land Distribution in Holland, 1555-1684

Session: 2

Authors: Bram Hilkens

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: The current paper attempts to add to our understanding of the workings of the land market in early modern Holland over the long term in periods of economic growth, decline, and structural transition. It aims to do so by exhausting information from a uniquely kept source: the schepenbankprotocollen from Hazerswoude, a rural town southeast of Leiden. The sources contain serial information on all formal land exchanges in the area, including the exchanging parties (and often their familial relations), land prices, collateral, and the date the debt was paid or defaulted. This allows us to reconstruct the details of all formal land exchanges between 1555-1808, focusing on the period 1555-1684. By doing so, the paper attempts to gain insight into the constituents of the land market, adding to our understanding of the growth of Holland’s rural economy, its transition to agrarian capitalism, and the market-induced drivers of land inequality.

Enclosures and productivity in Eastern Sweden – Evidence from the land market 1840-1869

Session: 3

Authors: Viktor Persarvet

Co-authors: Marja Erikson

Abstract: Did enclosures lead to increased agricultural productivity? Enclosures has been held to be an important catalyst for the agricultural development in Europe during the 18th and 19th century, although the results from previous research is mixed. In this article, we provide new evidence using a database of all market transactions of agricultural properties in a Swedish county during the mid-19th century. We show that buyers of agricultural properties did not value enclosed land higher than open field land. Property rights were sufficiently secure to enable land use intensification regardless.

The Union Wage Effect at the Dawn of the Great Levelling - Evidence from Interwar Sweden

Session: 3

Authors: William Skoglund

Co-authors: NA

Abstract: In this paper I use a new plant-level dataset to investigate the relationship between wages and the strength of regional unions in interwar Sweden. Using a shift-share, or ’Bartik’, instrumental variables approach I disentangle the causal effect of union strength on wage levels. I find a statistically and economically significant, heterogenous, union wage effects for men. I find no support for an effect on women’s wages. The paper concludes that unions were successful in raising wages, but not neccessarily egalitarian. The paper contributes to the literature by providing, to my knowledge, the only evidence of a union wage effect in Sweden and perhaps the earliest union wage effect found anywhere - highlighting the importance of unions in shaping labor market outcomes in the early 20th century.