Was (English) Canada Poorer than the United States? Living Standards circa 1830 to circa 1845

I have a new working paper available. This time, it is co-authored with Gonzalo Macera (Texas Tech University & Free Market Institute). We use evidence from the censuses of 1842 in Canada to showcase that most of the differences in living standards between the United States stem from the relative poverty of Quebec – home of the French-speaking population of Canada. Because of Quebec’s important demographic weight, we argue that this finding that Canada was nearly equal to the US in the early 19th century highlights the need to consider what institutions weighted down Quebec and Canada as a second order effect. The abstract is below and the link to SSRN is here:

This paper uses the censuses of 1842 of Canada East (modern day Quebec) and Canada West (modern day Ontario) to help explain the historical differences in living standards between Canada and the United States. The argument made in this paper is that Canada East was substantially poorer than the rest of Canada. The wage and price data contained in the censuses suggest a gap of 42% between Canada East and Canada West. As it represented such a large of the total population (north of 35%) of Canada, that relative poverty weighed heavily in determining the extent of living standards differences between Canada and the United States. This changes the perspective on the roots of the differences between the two countries. It proposes that any research agenda trying to explain them should focus heavily on Quebec.


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