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Invitation: Maddison Lecture by Harvard Prof. Williamson | Growth and Inequality in America | 14 September

07 September 2015
Monday 14 September 2015


Event: Annual Maddison Lecture in Economic History and Development
Theme: Growth and Inequality in America: From Colony to Superpower
Speaker: Jeffrey G. Williamson, Harvard University and University of Wisconsin

Date and Time
: Monday 14 September 2015, 15.30 - 17.15 hours
Location: Donald Smitszaal (Smitsborg, 5431.0053), Zernike Campus Groningen
Admission: free, open to everyone


The Groningen Growth and Development Centre of the Faculty of Economics and Business welcomes Economics Professor Jeffrey Williamson from Harvard on Monday 14 September. He will deliver the Maddison Lecture in Economic History and Development. Williamson will explain the 300 year process of development of the United States. Especially the two distinct periods of rising income inequality (1790s and 1970s) might help us understand mechanisms of economic development taking place nowadays all over the world.

In almost 300 years, from the early 17th century to the early 20th century, the United States of America rose from being a group of unimportant colonies to the world’s superpower. This remarkable transformation, though, did not happen in a smooth fashion. While there is evidence that British American colonies had a per capita income higher than Britain already in 1650 and that American colonists were world income leaders in 1774, America lost its income lead during the Revolution. This happened at a time when the United States had a much more equal distribution of income than Europe.

By 1860 America had regained the lead in terms of income compared to other parts of the worlds but along the way it lost its distinctive income equality. Income inequality rose sharply from 1790 to 1860 in a way that looks very much like the recent steep increase in inequality that has been observed since the 1970s. These two periods of rising income inequality were separated by the great income leveling that took place after World War I, a period when the United States of America in terms of economic development was forging ahead of the rest of world.

In his Maddison Lecture at University of Groningen, Harvard economic history professor Jeffrey Williamson will provide his explanation about this complex process of development that the United States of America followed and which produced two distinct periods of rising income inequality. The lecture will sketch the key mechanisms that can account for the observed co-movements of income levels and inequality. It will also offer conclusions from the American experience that are of relevance in order to understand the mechanics of economic development, as they are unfolding today in other parts of the world.

Jeffrey G. Williamson is the emeritus Laird Bell professor of economics at Harvard University, an honorary fellow of the Department of Economics at University of Wisconsin–Madison, and an adjunct professor of School of Economics at the University of the Philippines. He was president of the American Economic History Association from 1994 to 1995, chairman of the Harvard Economics Department between 1997 and 2000 and Master of Harvard’s Mather House from 1986 to 1993. His is the author of the forthcoming books: “The Spread of Modern Manufacturing to the Periphery since 1870” (with Kevin O’Rourke), “Latin American Inequality in the Long Run” (with Luis Bértola), “Unequal Gains: American Incomes since 1650 (with Peter Lindert). He also recently published “The Cambridge Economic History of Capitalism” (2014) with Larry Neal, “Trade and Poverty: When the Third World Fell Behind” (2011), “Globalization and the Poor Periphery before 1950: The Ohlin Lectures” (2006), and “Global Migration and the World Economy” (2005) with Timothy Hatton.

This lecture is organized by the Groningen Growth and Development Centre with the support of the Faculty of Economics and Business and the SOM Research School.

For more information about the Maddison Lecture, contact dr. Jutta Bolt or dr. Petros Milionis

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Last modified:16 September 2019 11.46 a.m.

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