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The origins of regional inequality in Spain, 1840-2015

14th National Competition for Economic Research Grants

Economic history

Senior Researcher : Carlos Santiago Caballero

Research Centre or Institution : Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.


The study of long-term economic inequality is an area that has gained enormous popularity in recent years. However, the response to that interest in the relevant literature has been particularly scant. This project aims to fill that gap to some extent by means of the estimation of levels of inequality in various regions of Spain between 1840 and 1870. Though it is framed within the field of economic history, the project has a markedly multi-disciplinary nature, combining elements of history, economy, sociology and demography. The estimations of inequality will be complemented by another important contribution, the estimation of the levels of socio-economic mobility in those same regions, which will be possible thanks to the analysis of the municipal civil registers that exist for that period.

The comparative regional dimension of the project adds richness to it, first of all due to the lack of comparative studies of historic inequality in different regions, and also because it will enable us to identify with greater certainty the forces responsible for the different levels of inequality. The nature of the source will also enable us to analyse internal migration flows in Spain, an important contribution of considerable relevance given the lack of similar studies for such an early period.

During the period under analysis, Spain experienced enormous social and economic transformations and began the country's industrialisation, which benefited from the creation of important infrastructures such as the telegraph and the railway. The effect of this infrastructure will be evaluated in this project in terms of changes in economic inequality and movements of production factors such as labour. The database that will be created in this project will be one of the largest at micro-economic level for the 19th century, enabling future researchers in a wide range of fields to access fundamental information for their studies.

Finally, a comparison will be made of the levels of socio-economic inequality and mobility in the 19th century with those observable in the present day. In this way, we will be able to observe whether the growth process experienced in Spain over the last 150 years permitted a reduction in regional differences in these two variables, or whether there continue to be significant differences whose roots can be traced back to the beginnings of Spain's industrialisation.

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