Escaping_from_a_human_capital_trap_Italy - Escaping from a...

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1 Escaping from a human capital trap? Italy’s regions and the move to centralized primary schooling, 1861 1936 Gabriele Cappelli Universität Tübingen (Faculty of Business and Economics) Chair of Economic history Melanchthonstraße 30, (Room 105) 72074 Tübingen [email protected] +49 (0) 7071 - 29 78 161 This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in the European Review of Economic History following peer review. The version of record is available online via Oxford University Press Abstract The role played by public policy in the development of Italy’s human capital in the late nineteenth century and the Interwar period has long remained unexplored by quantitative economic history. This paper explores whether a system of decentralized primary education slowed down regional convergence in schooling, since poor and backward areas could not afford to invest a suitable amount of resources in education. It also investigates whether a more centralized system introduced in 1911 fostered the developme nt of basic education and reduced the country’s regional disparities. The analysis confirms the existence of such a human capital trap, and shows that centralized primary education fostered the development of Italy’s schooling in the Interwar period.
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2 1. Introduction Human capital is a central determinant of economic performance. One line of research, dating back to the work of Lucas and Romer, suggests that a more educated labour force greatly improves a country’s rate of growth ( Lucas, 1988, Romer, 1990). However, theoretical models seldom provide insight into the way that human capital actually affects economic performance (Thirlwall, 2005, Todaro and Smith, 2011). A more long-term perspective has allowed researchers to identify some of the mechanisms linking human capital and growth. For example, Becker et al. maintain that an inverse relationship between fertility and human capital is responsible for the presence of different growth equilibriums across countries (Becker, Murphy and Tamura, 1990). This has recently become a key feature of Unified Growth Theory, the aim of which is to merge different stages of economic development into a single and comprehensive model of growth (Galor, 2005). Goldin and Katz put forward the notion that education is likely to supply skills that are required in order to meet the demand generated by technological progress (Goldin and Katz, 2007). Other work using a historical perspective provide further insights into the way that education and human capital can promote economic growth. In spite of different (and not necessarily mutually exclusive) views on the issue, improved human capital prompted by the Enlightenment might explain why the Industrial Revolution was mainly a European phenomenon (Landes, 1999, Mokyr, 2004 and Mokyr, 2010).
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  • Fall '11
  • Arthur
  • Economics, History of education, fiscal capacity

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