main departures from the British basket used in Allen (2009) are: 1) we substitute

potatoes and wheat for oats; 2) we increase the share of meat; and 3) we use rum

instead of beer as the main alcoholic beverage. 14

The wage data used to compute annual earnings include skilled and unskilled

urban labor and farm labor. 15 The 1830s sources also show a breakdown by gender.

Most data are from Coghlan (1918, vol. 1) and Barnard’s Statistical account of Van

Diemen's Land (1856).

The welfare ratios – measuring how many baskets a worker could buy – are

presented in Figures 1A and 1B. They show that welfare ratios were on average

slightly higher in Tasmania than in New South Wales during the 1820s, especially for

skilled working class occupations, but this advantage had disappeared in the 1830s. 16

There was a small decline in average living standards between the 1820s and 1830s in

both colonies (consistent with the negative GDP per capita growth estimates for the

1820s reported in Table 2), but more pronounced in Tasmania. However, in New

South Wales this was driven by the lower premium earned by skilled occupations,

thus pointing to a narrowing of inequality explored below.

Further evidence on the narrowing gap between skilled and unskilled workers

real wages in New South Wales between the 1820s and the 1830s is presented in

Table 4, which compares Australia’s living standards to those of Europe, the United

14 We converted beer into rum based on the alcohol content of each beverage: 182 liters of beer used in

the British basket correspond to 14.56 liters of rum.

15 See footnote 12 above where we explain at length what we assume about days worked per year by


16 Skilled working class occupations include artisans, skilled in the building trades, skilled in the metal

trades, and mechanics.

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