The Economic History Review

How not to measure the standard of living: Male wages, non-market production and household income in nineteenth-century Europe

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Authors: Joyce Burnette
Published online: March 22, 2024DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13339

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While real male wages can be used to measure input costs, they do not provide accurate measures of the standard of living. This paper uses detailed accounts of nineteenth-century European families collected by Le Play and his colleagues to demonstrate the importance of non-market production for household consumption. If we measure income from all sources, including non-market production, the British advantage in material consumption was only about half of the British advantage in male wages. While British male wages were high, British wives worked less and British families were more dependent on the income of the male head than continental families.

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