Figure 5. Household income per capita in Italy and the UK, ca. 1905



Cumulative Distribution Function



Plausible range for the poverty lines





0 10 20 30 40 50 60

Income (1905 pence/day/person)

Source: A’Hearn, Di Battista and Vecchi (mimeo).

Data on rents is available for Italy, but only for the cities, where accommodation was

expensive. An important item in British budgets (14% relative to food expenditure

according to a 1918 study) that is omitted from the calculations is fuel; cheap coal was

used in large quantities. In Italy fuel was considerably less important in the budget, but

consisted of expensive firewood. Inclusion of fuel (making it part of the set G, using the

notation of Section 5) with an expenditure weight (q) equal to a British-Italian average

thus makes Italian prices look expensive. In preliminary calculations, A’Hearn et al.

(2016) find that the combined effect of all these changes (two-country expenditure

weights, Italian urban rents, and inclusion of fuel) result in the lira looking rather

overvalued at 25.2 per pound; PPP rates come out closer to 40.

The most striking feature of Figure 5 is the crossing of the two curves. The 80 th and 90 th

percentiles of the Italian distribution are at income levels clearly above their British

counterparts. In part this may result from overvaluing the lira in our currency

conversion. But it is certainly affected by the non-random nature of the underlying

British budget data. Missing from this otherwise-impressive collection are the upper


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