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The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)

Guido Alfani, M Di Tullio and M Fochesato
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M Di Tullio: Università di Pavia
M Fochesato: Dondena, Bocconi University

CAGE Online Working Paper Series from Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE)

Abstract: This article analyses wealth inequality in the territories of the Republic of Venice in mainland Italy during 1400-1800. The availability of a particularly large database of homogeneous local inequality measurements allows us to produce the most in-depth study of the determinants of inequality at the local level available so far for any preindustrial society. First, we explore the ability of economic development, population and the intensity of regressive taxation to explain overall inequality trends in the long run, arguing for a particularly strong impact of regressive taxation. Then, to explain inequality variation between communities, we introduce a full set of geo-morphological variables. Finally we explore the impact of the terrible 1630 plague, which killed 40% of the inhabitants of this area. Although the plague itself had only a limited egalitarian impact (if any), it was able to determine a structural break in the way in which some key variables affected inequality.

Keywords: Economic inequality; wealth concentration; poverty; middle ages; early modern period; plague; Black Death; Italy; Republic of Venice JEL Classification: (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his
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