The Social Implications of Sugar: Living Costs, Real Incomes and Inequality in Jamaica c1774

L Panza, T Burnard, JG Williamson

National Bureau of Economic Research | Published : 2017


This paper provides the first quantitative assessment of Jamaican standards of living and income inequality around 1774. To this purpose we compute welfare ratios for a range of occupations and build a social table. We find that the slave colony had extremely high living costs, which rose steeply during the American War of Independence, and low standards of living, particularly for its enslaved population. Our results also show that due to its extreme poverty surrounding extreme wealth Jamaica was the most unequal place in the pre-modern world. Furthermore, all of these characteristics applied to the free population alone.

University of Melbourne Researchers