The Economic History Review

Human capital transfer of German-speaking migrants in eastern Europe, 1780s–1820s

Volume 75 Issue 3
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Pages: 703-738Authors: Matthias Blum, Karl-Peter Krauss, Dmytro Myeshkov
Published online: September 27, 2021DOI: 10.1111/ehr.13111

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Prior to the ‘Age of Mass Migration’, Germans left central Europe to settle primarily in modern-day Hungary, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, and Russia. Despite the harsh conditions that the first generation of settlers had to endure, their descendants often fared better, rather than worse, compared to native population groups. This study offers a possible explanation for this surprising outcome. It makes use of data on approximately 11 500 individuals to estimate and compare the basic numeracy scores of German settlers and other population groups in target regions. The findings show that German settlers generally had superior basic numeracy levels, which suggests that these settlers must have contributed positively to the human capital endowment in their target regions. The numeracy of Germans was somewhat higher than the numeracy of Hungarians and substantially higher than that of Russians, Ukrainians, and Serbs. No noteworthy differences are found in terms of numeracy between German emigrants and the population they left behind, which suggests the absence of substantial migrant selection.