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The rise of the middle class: the income gap between salaried employees and workers in Sweden, ca. 1830–1940

Journal article
Authors Erik Bengtsson
Svante Prado
Published in Scandinavian Economic History Review
ISSN 0358-5522
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Economic History
Language en
Keywords Wages; salaries; income inequality; middle class; Sweden
Subject categories Economic History


We present the first comprehensive, long run salary information on Swedish middle-class employees before the twentieth century. Our data include, for instance, school teachers, professors, clerks, policemen and janitors in Stockholm and Sweden, ca. 1830–1940. We use the new data to compare the annual earnings of these middle-class employees with the annual earnings of farm workers, unskilled construction workers and manufacturing workers. The results show that the income gap between the middle class and the working class widen drastically from the mid-nineteenth century to a historically high level during the 1880s and 1890s. The differentials then decreased during the first four decades of the twentieth century. The bulging earnings advantage of middle-class employees vis-à-vis unskilled workers chimes with Kocka’s depiction of the latter half of the nineteenth century as the era of the bourgeoisie.

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Utskriftsdatum: 2020-03-31