Milanovic, Lindert, and Williamson (2011). Property income is directly available from

the catasto; the authors estimate labour income from the head of household’s

occupation and scattered observations on wage rates, combined with assumptions about

working days per year, the contributions of other family members, and the value of

owner-occupied homes. Figure 4 illustrates the resulting distribution of family income

per capita, alongside the 1861 Italian distribution, reprised from Figure 2.

Figure 4. Four centuries and a half of decline



Cumulative Distribution Functions



Florence 1427

Italy 1861



0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000

Income (2010 euro/person/year)

Source: authors’ elaboration on datasets kindly made available by Peter Lindert (Florence 1427)

and Amendola and Vecchi (Italy 1861).

The retrogression between 1427 and 1861 is dramatic; can this possibly be right? It does

correspond to the historiography of Italian economic decline, and to what we know

about real wages, urbanisation, and nutrition. Malanima’s (2011) estimates of North-

Italian GDP per capita in the long run indicate a 22% decline between 1427 and 1861.

But the contrast is exaggerated, for we are comparing the richest city of Renaissance

Italy’s richest region with all of Italy in 1861 including the poorest agricultural laborers


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