Nominal Wage Rigidity in England in the Long Run
The Tudor-Era Fall in the English Standard of Living

Real Wages of Construction Workers in England

210A Labor Markets - NeoOffice Impress

Source: Jan de Vries 2/13/08 lecture, originally from Phelps-Brown and Sheila Hopkins (1956), "Seven Centuries of the Prices of Consumables, Compared with Builders' Wage- Rates," Economica 23:92 (November), pp. 296-314
  • The (delayed) triumph of Malthus:
    • Real wages rise in the late-Plantagenet fourteenth century as the Bubonic Plague and other biomedical disasters raise the land-to-labor ratio.
    • Real wages fall steeply in the Tudor sixteenth century as domestic peace and the attentuation of plagues leads to a demographic boom and a lowering of the land-to-labor ratio.
    • In both cases, however, there are long and variable lags: half a century or so during which customary wage rates war with supply and demand.
    • And in the Tudor years, you also have the ongoing inflation of the "price revolution" driving changes.
  • Nevertheless, it was not until 1880 that the purchasing power of English construction workers over "necessities" once again attained its Lancaster-dynasty medieval apogee.
    • But is this a good proxy for standard of living? In 1850 you couldn't buy as much beef and beer and bread as in 1470, but you could take the railroad to Brighton, buy penny-dreadfuls, and put lots of sugar in your tea...