The Equally “Bad” French and English Farmers of Quebec: New TFP Measures from the 1831 Census

I have had many iterations of this paper. Each time a draft was made, we cut it down to answer fewer questions. The more we worked on it, the more we realized that the endeavor to explain agricultural productivity differences and the agricultural crisis of Canada from 1800 to 1850 required numerous separate papers. As a result, we opted to cut down this paper to only one question: were French-Canadian farmers “worse” than English-Canadian farmers at the height of the agricultural crisis (1831). Our answer is that, no they were not.

The paper can be consulted here on Academia. It has an extensive appendix on our data computations and our control variables. To our knowledge, it is the first that such an exhaustive empirical strategy has been used for early Canadian history. The key table can be seen here below and confirm that the differences in TFP are minimal.




New Paper: Living Standards in Canada, 1831

I have a new paper regarding the measurement of living standards in Lower Canada (modern-day Quebec) in 1831. I use the census of 1831 which is rich in that it offers a wide cross-sectional of wages and prices across the colony. We found that Canadians were substantially poorer than the Americans in Boston and Philadelphia and that within the colony, there were wide variations in living standards. The paper can be found at  Below, you will also find the map of our results for Quebec, a table of the distribution of wages and the comparison with the United States. 12874460_10153341659956507_1736134920_o

Wages in Canada


Electricity in Quebec before nationalization

Most of my friends know that I am a proponent of privatizing Hydro-Quebec, the crown corporation in charge of electricity production and distribution in Quebec, and of liberalizing the energy market. When I make my case, many will argue that when we had a free markets (in the 1920s), corporations were gouging consumers since they had monopoly power. As a matter of fact, they do have some empirical evidence of higher prices in Quebec than in neighbouring Ontario.

However, that is a clear case of cherry-picking. Why? Because starting in 1903, the government of Ontario intervened in the energy market by buying electricity from private firm and selling it at cost to consumers in the municipalities who decided to participate in the scheme. The government covered the difference. Comparing a subsidized system with an unsubsidized one is clearly some cherry picking. Moreover, in the early 1920s, Ontario actually went a step further and nationalized its electricity grid (well, a part of it).

Meanwhile in Quebec, non-intervention was the rule up to 1935 and nationalization only occured in 1944. So how did Quebec compare with other places where the real cost of electricity wasn’t being passed on to taxpayers? Well, here is an index of different measures of electricity prices in the United States, the United Kingdom and Quebec. What I see is a clear decline in nominal prices, a decline which is in fact steeper than elsewhere!

Sources are from Statistical Archives of the Quebec and Canada Year Books, from the Historical Statistics of the United States and from Leslie Hannah’s Electricity before Nationalization: A study of the development of the electricity supply industry in Britain to 1948. As these data are being assembled for a research paper, they will not be published on this website until the peer-review process has been completed. But I do believe that this graph tells quite a story!