Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence

RAFAEL DOBADO GONZÁLEZ, HÉCTOR GARCÍA MONTERO
REVISTA  DE HISTORIA ECONÓMICA / JOURNAL OF IBERIAN AND LATIN AMERICAN ECONOMIC HISTORY 28 (2010): 253-277

This paper attempts to contribute to the ongoing debate on the historical roots of the high economic inequality of contemporary Iberian America. The authors’ approach, which is basically empirical, departs from the mainstream scholarship. They show new data on wages and heights in several viceroyalties that (1) suggest relatively medium-to-high levels of material welfare among the commoners in Bourbon Hispanic America; and (2) allow them to build indexes of economic inequality. The authors claim that an international comparison of those indexes casts some doubts on the widely accepted view that Viceroyal America’s economy was exclusively based on extremely unequal or extractive institutions, as it has been popularized by the influential works by Engerman and Sokoloff and Acemoglu et al.