The income inequality of France in historical perspective
France presents an unusual case because, unlike several other European countries, there are no estimates of the income distribution for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is a serious deficiency because it limits the ability to understand how an important dimension of the socio-economic fabric changed during the years preceding and coinciding with the beginning of France s industrial development. In this article we provide estimates that use tax data and the social tables of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While this data does not provide a basis for a perfectly accurate assessment of the income distribution, it does permit an evaluation of the general magnitude of inequality and how it varied in that period. The results suggest that inequality during the eighteenth century was large but decreased during the revolutionary period (1790 1815). Afterwards, and in accordance with Kuznets hypothesis, when industrialisation began about 1830, inequality increased until sometime in the 1860s when it began its slow decline towards greater equality that characterises the twentieth century.
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