Human Capital Formation During the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Use of Steam Engines

101 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2018 Last revised: 25 Jun 2018

See all articles by Alexandra de Pleijt

Alexandra de Pleijt

University of Oxford

Alessandro Nuvolari

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM)

Jacob Weisdorf

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Date Written: June 2018

Abstract

We examine the effect of technical change on human capital formation during England's Industrial Revolution. Using the number of steam engines installed by 1800 as a synthetic indicator of technological change, and occupational statistics to measure working skills (using HISCLASS), we establish a positive correlation between the use of steam engines and the share of skilled workers at the county level. We use exogenous variation in carboniferous rock strata (containing coal to fuel the engines) to show that the effect was causal. While technological change stimulated the formation of working skills, it had an overall negative effect on the formation of primary education, captured by literacy and school enrolment rates. It also led to higher gender inequality in literacy.

Keywords: Economic Growth, education, Human Capital, Industrialisation, Steam Engines, Technological change

JEL Classification: J82, N33, O14, O33

Suggested Citation

de Pleijt, Alexandra and Nuvolari, Alessandro and Weisdorf, Jacob, Human Capital Formation During the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Use of Steam Engines (June 2018). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12987, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3198139

Alexandra De Pleijt (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Alessandro Nuvolari

Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna di Pisa - Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM) ( email )

Piazza Martiri della Liberta', 33-I-56127
Pisa
Italy

Jacob Weisdorf

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

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