Imperfect Competition on the Cathedral Floor: Labourers in London 1672 to 1748

Tuesday, June 30, 2020
12:30 pm – 2:00 pm EDT

We are pleased to invite you to a new webinar series, “Facing Inequality”, hosted by the Institute for International Economic Policy. This virtual series will focus on current and emerging inequality issues in the U.S. and around the globe. The series will bring attention to aspects of inequality being made increasingly relevant by the current COVID-19 pandemic and associated crises. The series is organized under the stewardship of IIEP Director James Foster, Oliver T. Carr, Jr. Professor of International Affairs and Professor of Economics, and IIEP Faculty Affiliate Trevor Jackson, Assistant Professor of History. The series is co-sponsored by the GW Interdisciplinary Inequality Series, co-organized by Prof. Jackson from the Department of History and Prof. Bryan Stuart from the Department of Economics.

The fourth event, “Imperfect Competition on the Cathedral Floor: Labourers in London 1672-1748” will feature Judy Stephenson and Patrick Wallis. In their paper, they present a new data set for the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century to explore the operation of the market for unskilled construction workers, the reference occupation for long run urban wage series, at one major building site in London. They find patterns of work distribution and pay which indicate characteristics of imperfect competition, most notably high worker and job flows alongside remarkable nominal wage rigidity, and evidence of an internal labour market alongside a much shorter and more fragile working year than has been previously found. The results suggest that wages, or labour’s share of income, may resist response to changes in productivity and labour supply and demand even in the long run, and highlight that labour markets created inequalities of experience, income and returns to work before modern institutions and firms. Professor Bryan Stuart will be a discussant.

About the Speakers:

Judy Stephenson

Judy Stephenson is a Professor of Construction Economics and Finance, and Economic History; a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy; and a Departmental Tutor and Director of Teaching & Learning at Bartlett CPM. She is an economic historian of early modern London, its construction industry and associated markets. She researches construction, labour markets, institutions, firms, finance and industries in London between about 1600 and 1850 and is known for her work on London and English wages between 1650 and 1800. She has published on contracts and wages, and the boundaries of the firm before 1800.

Patrick Wallis

Patrick Wallis is a Professor of Economic History at the London School of Economics. His research explores the economic, social and medical history of Britain and Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. His two main interests are in apprenticeship and human capital and the transformation of healthcare in early modern England. He has recently published two publications, including Access to the Trade: Monopoly and Mobility in European Craft Guilds in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries in the Journal of Social History and Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge University Press; November 2019).

About the Discussants:

Bryan Stuart is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics. He received his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan in 2017 and joined George Washington University in August 2017. His research interests include labor, public, and urban economics. Recent and current projects examine the effects of recessions on individuals and local areas, the effects of government policies on labor market outcomes, and the determinants and consequences of household location decisions.

Barry Chiswick is a Professor of Economics and International Affairs. He received his Ph.D. in Economics with Distinction from Columbia University and joined George Washington University in 2011. He has held permanent and visiting appointments at UCLA, Columbia University, Stanford University, Princeton University, University of Chicago, City University (New York), Hebrew University (Jerusalem), Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, and Ben-Gurion University. From 1973 to 1977, he was Senior Staff Economist on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. In addition, he served as chairman of the American Statistical Association Census Advisory Committee and past president of the European Society for Population Economics. He is currently Associate Editor of the Journal of Population Economics and Research in Economics of the Household and is on the editorial boards of four other academic journals. Since 2004, he has been the Program Director for Migration Studies at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany. 

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