Macrohistory Seminar – Giacomo Gabbuti (University of Oxford) Inheritances and the concentration of personal wealth in Italy from Unification to the Great War (1862-1915)

Event details

  • | Thursday, November 21
  • 12:15 PM
  • Juridicum, Faculty-lounge (Room 0.036, opposite lecture hall K)
Inheritances and the concentration of personal wealth in Italy from Unification to the Great War (1862-1915)

In this paper, we estimate new series of wealth concentration for Italy during the so-called first globalisation, a time when inequality reached secular peaks in advanced economies, while Italy enjoyed a ‘benevolent’ industrial take-off. After discussing the existing evidence on the accumulation and composition of wealth in Italy during the period, we exploit nationally representative tabulations of estates taxed during the period 1890-1915, to estimate top wealth shares. The same sources provide information on the composition of estates, and also allows us to estimate inequality at the region and even province level, providing the first historical evidence on the interlink between Italian regional divides and personal wealth distribution. To proxy national wealth concentration for the second half of 19th century, we turn to local-level micro-evidence on estates from local archives in Milan and Naples. Our results point towards stable wealth concentration during the period of the first Italian industrialisation, at levels comparable to those of the US (and thus lower than countries such as the UK and France). Within the country, despite wide differentials in wealth levels, there is no clear regional North-South gradient. At the end of the period, estates show similarities in terms of asset composition across regions, hiding substantial within-region differentials, more evident at the province level, that might explain the higher concentration in most (but not all) big cities, but not comparable inequality in rural areas, especially but not exclusively in the Centre and North-East.

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