Growth or stagnation? Well-being during the Spanish industrialization in Alcoy (1860-1910)

Gallardo-Albarrán, Daniel; García Gómez, José Joaquín


This article examines the effects of industrialization on overall well-being in Alcoy, a classic industrial town during Spanish economic modernization, by developing a utility-based indicator of welfare that combines detailed information on wages, health and inequality during the period 1860-1910. We find that aggregate male welfare rose by 40 percentage points, and that most of this improvement took place before 1877. These gains were not equally distributed, since male workers in agriculture experienced long-term stagnation, while the well-being of industrial and service labourers rose substantially. We provide tentative calculations for female workers showing that their living standards did not stagnate during the last part of the 19th century. Furthermore, we quantify the implications of taking different age perspectives to measure well-being. We find that excluding the youngest part of the population from the calculations during the analyzed period underestimates welfare growth by more than 50 per cent.