Monopsony and industrial development in nineteenth century Quebec : the impact of seigneurial tenure

Is monopsony power a potent candidate to explain Quebec’s divergence within Canada? Alongside Alex Arsenault Morin and Vadim Kufenko, I make this case in a new working paper.

Basically, we argue that the land tenure system created a series of localized monopsonies on the non-farm labor market. We argue that this depressed wages and labor demand (we have no measure of total employment in the non-farm sector). The abstract is below and the link is here (ungated):

We argue that the system of seigneurial tenure used in the province of Quebec until the mid-nineteenth century – a system which allowed significant market power in the establishment of plants, factories and mills, combined with restrictions on the mobility of the labor force within each seigneurial estate – is best understood as a system of regionalized monopsonies in the non-farm sector. Seigneurs had incentives to reduce their employment in those sectors to reduce wage rates. We use the fact that later, with the Constitutional Act of 1791, all new settled lands had to be settled under a different system (British land laws). This natural experiment allows us to test our hypothesis that seigneurial tenure was a monopsony, using data from the 1831 and 1851 Lower Canada censuses. We find strong evidence that this difference in tenure partially explains the gap in industrial development between Quebec and the neighboring colony of Ontario

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About Vincent Geloso

Cornucopian economist, statistics freak and quantitative historian trained at the London School of Economics. I specialize in economic demography, law and economics and economic history (especially the measurement of living standards).

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