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Export Booms and Labor Coercion: Evidence from the Lancashire Cotton Famine

Mohamed Saleh ()

No 14542, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers

Abstract: Price booms in labor-intensive exports are expected to benefit labor. The surging demand for labor can increase labor coercion, though, if labor is relatively scarce. Using a unique natural experiment, the Lancashire cotton famine in 1861-1865 that prompted Egypt to quadruple its cotton output, and a novel data source, Egypt's population censuses of 1848 and 1868, I document that the cotton famine had a positive impact on labor coercion in rural Egypt. Agricultural slavery emerged, with an influx of imported slaves from Sudan. Owners of large estates confiscated areas with larger (non-slave) local populations. It also had a positive impact on the non-coercive employment in agriculture of local labor. I explain these findings by the scarcity of local labor relative to cotton expansion, and by large landholders' exclusive right to coerce local labor. The findings accentuate the far-reaching unintended consequences of globalization on labor in poorer economies.

Keywords: Cotton; Globalization; Labor coercion; Labor scarcity; Slavery (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: F16 J47 N35 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-03
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ara, nep-his and nep-int
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