The article “Income inequality under colonial rule. Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and comparisons with British colonies 1920–1960”, by Facundo Alvaredo, Denis Cogneau and Thomas Piketty, has been accepted by and published in the Journal of Development Economics, a top academic journal in development economics.
>> Read the full article online: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0304387821000584
The authors assess income inequality across French and British colonial empires between 1920 and 1960, exploiting for the first time income tax tabulations. As measured by top income shares, inequality was high in colonies. Europeans comprised the bulk of top income earners, and only a minority of autochthons could compete income-wise. Top income shares were no higher in settlement colonies, those territories were wealthier and the average European settler was less rich than the average expatriate. Inequality among autochthons was moderate, and inequality among Europeans was similar to that of the metropoles. The post-WWII fall in income inequality can be explained by the one among Europeans, mirroring that of the metropoles, and does not imply that the European/autochthon income gap was very much reduced. After independence, the mass recruitment of state employees induced a large increase in inequality among autochthons. Dualistic structures lost their racial dimension and changed shape, yet persisted.
- Income tax data are used to measure inequality in French and British colonies.
- Only a minority of autochthons could compete income-wise with European settlers.
- Top income shares were no higher in settlement colonies.
- Inequality among Europeans was similar to that of the metropoles.
- After independence dualistic structures lost their racial dimension yet persisted.
Alvaredo, F., Cogneau, D., Piketty P., “Income inequality under colonial rule. Evidence from French Algeria, Cameroon, Tunisia, and Vietnam and comparisons with British colonies 1920–1960”. Journal of Development Economics. Volume 152, September 2021, 102680.
A previous version of this work was published on WID.world: 2020/14 working paper.