Edoardo Rappa (Ph.D Candidate University of Siena): “A Golden Age for all? Income Inequality in Italy, 1950-1970”

Date: Tuesday, 23 April 2024, at 12:15 pm

Location: Seminar Room Bruguier Pacini, DEM

Speaker and Title:

Edoardo Rappa (Ph.D Candidate University of Siena)
A Golden Age for all? Income Inequality in Italy, 1950-1970

Discussant: Giacomo Gabbuti, Post-Doctoral Researcher Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies


Despite we know a lot about the history of inequality in Italy since 1861 (and even before), income inequality estimates are not available for the country for the period 1950-1970. Alvaredo and Pisano (2010) reconstructed top income shares from 1974, while Gini index based on historical household budgets by Vecchi(2017) and coauthors cover only the 1861-1931 period. Compared to the 1948 survey carried on by Doxa, the first estimates by the Bank of Italy, in 1967, show a very minor decline of income inequality by then.

More recently, Gómez León and Gabbuti (2022) adopted the so-called Dynamic Social Tables (DST) methodology to reconstruct income inequality in Italy from 1900 to 1950. Inspired by “Classic Social Tables” (Milanovic et al., 2011), DST are based on the combination of historical sources on the active population (such as censuses) by major groups and social classes, with other external sources on average incomes of these groups and classes, to estimate between-group Gini coefficients.

In this paper, we adopt the DST methodology to advance new estimates of Gini coefficients from 1950 to 1970, thus filling the major gap in the Italian literature on the topic – what happened during the so-called “Economic Miracle”. The Italian Golden Agewas marked by a very fast increase in GDP and the coeval massive industrialization and tertiarization of the economy – the classic, “Kuzentsian” suspects for increasing inequality. The paper will also discuss two, so far overlooked aspects of this transition. First, by reconstructing province-level estimates for 1951, 1961 and 1971, we will discuss the interlink between personal inequality and regional inequality. The period under study was indeed the only one of sustained regional convergence in GDP in post-unitary history. Then, by reconstructing different incomes for men and women in each group, we will address the gender dimension of income inequality. As discussed by Gómez León and Gabbuti (2022), DST allow us to analyze together female labor force participation and female pay gaps – particularly interesting in a period, like the 1950s and 1960s, in which they arguably followed opposing paths. Following Neef and Robilliard (2021), we will be able to reconstruct female share of labor income, as a “synthetic” measure of evolving gender gap. This set of estimates will allow us to discuss potential drivers, starting from State intervention in the economy, the welfare state, taxation, inflation, wage indexation and local pay scales system.

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