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Distinct within North America: living standards in French Canada, 1688–1775

  • Vincent J. Geloso
Original Paper

Abstract

I use a novel dataset of prices and wages from the French colony of Quebec (Canada’s second largest province today) to measure colonial-era living standards. Following Allen’s (Explor Econ Hist 38(4):411–447, 2001; The British industrial revolution in global perspective, Cambridge University, Cambridge, 2009; Econ Hist Rev 68(1):1–22, 2015) welfare-ratios approach, I find that Quebec was poorer than the American colonies and London, but somewhat richer than Paris and Southern England. The Quebec–Paris comparison is sensitive to changes in the basket used to compare wages. Shifting from a bare bones basket to a respectable basket, Quebec loses its advantage over Paris, but remains poorer than the American colonies and London.

Keywords

Canadian economic history Quebec economic history Colonial origins of divergence Living standards Welfare ratios Real wages 

JEL Classification

N11 N31 N91 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors wishes to acknowledge the help of Alexandra Foucher, Stephen Broadberry, Chris Minns, Alexandre Padilla, Gloria Main, Vadim Kufenko, Judy Stephenson, Peter Sims, Jeffrey Williamson and Peter Lindert. Special acknowledgments go to Gilles Paquet and Peter Gagné. Professor Paquet helped me navigate the sources thanks to his pioneering work in Quebec's economic history and who also provided numerous comments early on. Mr. Gagné, the archivist of the Séminaire de Québec and the Musée de la Civilisation de Québec, helped me understand the sources I was using and gave me the necessary materials to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the data. Finally, I thank Claude Diebolt and the anonymous referees who provided insightful comments prior to publication. All errors remain my own.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsBates CollegeLewistonUSA

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