Peter Lindert, 15 April 2017

The debate over how the real income gaps between countries have evolved over the centuries has heated up since the 1990s. This column argues for a reshuffling of the global ranks between Columbus and WWI. Findings include that (i) the real income gap between northwest Europe and the major Asian countries was greater since the 1500s than previously estimated; (ii) contrary to all previous estimates, Mughal India around 1600 was already far behind both Japan and Northwest Europe; and (iii) average incomes in North America were already higher than in Britain or France in the late 17th century, long before Maddison’s suggested catching-up date for the US versus Britain of around 1900. 

Kevin O'Rourke, Jeffrey Williamson, 03 April 2017

The Great Divergence in living standards between the West and the Rest is being eroded as developing economies rapidly industrialise. This column explores the origins of modern industrial growth in regions that fell behind the West during the Great Divergence. Modern manufacturing growth in the global periphery dates back to the interwar period, and in some regions much earlier. It depended on a complex interaction between factor endowments, the global context, economic policies, and luck.

Daniel Bernhofen, Markus Eberhardt, Jianan Li , Morgan Stephen, 22 June 2016

Despite being credited with many of the defining inventions of the early modern era, China failed to develop in line with Western Europe at the start of the 19th century. This column suggests that one reason for this was that China’s economy was more fragmented than that of Europe. Using Chinese monthly grain prices from 1740-1820 and grain price panels from Western Europe, it shows that in terms of market integration, the Great Divergence was well under way decades before the start of the 19th century.

Stephen Broadberry, 16 November 2013

The economic divergence we observe today was existent even a thousand years ago. Thanks to recent work on historical data, we can now trace the economic development of different countries centuries back in the past. This column discusses the roots of the Great Divergence between European and Asian economies. The column argues that divergence is due to the differential impact of shocks that hit economies with different structural features.

Oded Galor, Andrew Mountford, 18 February 2008

The last 200 years saw a ‘Great Divergence’ in per capita income, as some countries industrialised while others remained less developed. This column attributes the divergence to international trade. Comparative advantage encouraged industrialising economies to invest in human capital, while non-industrial economies experienced population growth.


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