Papers and research projects

 Published papers

Moderate Opulence: The Evolution of Wealth inequality in Mexico in its first century of independence.

This article presents the first complete 19th-century reconstruction of the Mexican wealth distribution, from independence to the Mexican Revolution. It uses an often underutilized source in Mexican historiography: will inventories/protocols. In addition, the present article estimates the levels and trends of historical wealth inequality using five different methods, among them the application of the properties of two theoretical parametric distributions to the measurement of historical inequality. The dynamics of wealth inequality in 19th century Mexico were dominated by the top 1% and the middle 40% of the wealth distribution; meanwhile, the top 10% and bottom 50% demonstrate remarkable stability. This article makes significant contributions through two primary avenues: firstly, the reconstruction of historical wealth inequality, and secondly, the analysis of historical developments in the context of their potential impact on the distribution of wealth within a dynamic political economy environment.

Explorations in Economic History

Income Inequality in Mexico, 1895–1940: Industrialization, Revolution, Institutions 

This paper presents comprehensive estimates of income inequality in Mexico in 1895, 1910, 1930 and 1940. Inequality grew from 1895 to 1910, driven by economic expansion within an oligarchical political economy. Incomes grew for the lower classes, but the main beneficiaries were larger landowners and businessmen. In the revolutionary period from 1910 to 1930 inequality decreased especially because of land reforms, benefitting peasants at the expense of the large landowners. But the economic structure of the country was not fundamentally changed, and in the 1930s inequality grew as incomes of peasants and those in the informal sector fell behind manufacturing and other high-earning sectors. The Mexican case shows the interaction of economics, demography and politics in determining economic inequality.

Coauthored with Erik Bengtsson (Lund University).

Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History (Forthcoming).


This paper engages with and aims to contribute to the ongoing discussion regarding the role of economic and political elites in inequality dynamics and their reproduction over time. We reconstruct the distribution of wealth employing a sample of wills from the El Colegio de Sonora database covering the period of 1871-1910. We show that the rapid industrialisation and modernisation process that occurred in northern Mexico during the late-19th and early-20th centuries led to a continuous increment in wealth concentration at the top of the distribution. The Gini index measure of 0.58 for the 1871-1885 period rose to 0.80 in 1901-1910. Rather than a natural or «Kuznetsian» inevitability fundamental (kuznetsian) necessity, however, our subsequent analysis of the wills of the upper classes suggests a critical role played by the political economy at the time and highlights the importance of control over natural resources on inequality dynamics. 

Coauthored with Alice Krozer (El Colégio de México)

Revista de Historia Economica - Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History 

Published Book Chapters

The wife, the dowry, and the distribution of wealth in 19th-century Mexico

The institution of the dowry as an instrument of wealth transmission in preindustrial societies constituted an important mechanism to accumulate wealth, preserve socioeconomic status, or as a strategy to enjoy upward mobility for families throughout the entire social spectrum. Considering dowry size being roughly proportional to issuer and recipient families’ wealth, understanding related practices and trends can help shed light on the processes of inequality creation and dynamics. This chapter makes two main contributions. First, employing a unique dataset of dowries from early to mid-19th-century Mexico, we compare the distribution of wealth in the dowries to that of wills and show how, in the absence of administrative data, the dowries are a good proxy for wealth inequality in society. Second, the dowry as an institution enhances our understanding of elite reproduction. By comparing the evolution of wealth registered in the dowries through time, we can observe how the amount of wealth allocated in the marriage market changes in response to the economy. Maintaining endogamic practices, the behavior of the elites adjusts to these economic changes, including the increased commercialization of cities and the boom-and-bust cycles of a predominantly extractivist agricultural and mining economy. 

Coauthored with Alice Krozer (El Colegio de México).

Wealth, Development, and Social Inequalities in Latin America

Transdisciplinary Insights.

Edited By Hans-Jürgen Burchardt  and Irene Lungo Rodríguez

 Working papers

What We Gained That Time We Lost So Much: Demographic Trends and Territorial Control in Mexico After the War with the United States.

This paper underscores demographic dynamics as a silent force shaping Mexico's 19th-century narrative, enhancing our comprehension of the nation's historical evolution. By examining the aftermath of American expansion (1846-1848) and the subsequent French intervention, this study shifts the focus from traditional state capacity discussions to demographic trends. It reevaluates Mexico's state formation during the 19th century and reveals the intrinsic role of demographic dynamics. Analyzing population trends at critical junctures, this research illuminates Mexico's vulnerability during its formative years. The transformation of Mexico's demographic landscape post-Mexican-American War becomes pivotal, laying the foundation for a more robust state in the face of foreign threats. The shift from a sparsely populated frontier to a strategically controlled border forms the core of this exploration, demonstrating how demographic shifts influenced territorial dominance and state resilience. This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of Mexico's historical evolution through the lens of demographic dynamics.

Couthored with Sergio Silva Castañeda (Banco de México).

The Sonoran Land Grab. The Development of Wealth Inequality in 19th century Sonora.

In Why Nations Fail Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue that the Sonoran encroachment at the end of the 19th century where Mexicans expropriated indigenous people’s lands is an example of an extractive institution that negatively impacted the Sonoran economy (Acemoglu & Robinson 2012). Moreover, they argue that the economic inequality we see in Mexico today stems from the extractive institutions created in historical times (Robinson 2018). Yet, we know very little about the drivers that led to economic inequality in the state of Sonora. In this paper we join a growing literature on highlighting the role of encroachment for a country’s economic development. We test the hypothesis stated by Castañeda Garza and Krozer (2022) that inequality in Sonora rose as a consequence of the aforementioned encroachment.

Our empirical strategy builds on a novel dataset containing individual-level records of wealth and a difference-in-difference framework to estimate the effect of encroachment on native Mexican lands in the late 19th century. We find that the encroachment positively impacted the wealth of individuals within the upper class and had an ambiguous effect on the middle and lower class within Sonora. Our findings highlight the immediate impact of institutions on inequality and provide new evidence for how inequality grew in Northern Mexico. 

Coauthored with William Skoglund (Uppsala University) and Jonatan Andersson (Uppsala University)

A Wicked War: War and the Wealth Inequality – Public Debt Nexus .

As war is an eminently political event, the impact of wars on inequality can be seen as an expression of the politics in society. This paper engages with the ongoing literature relating warfare to wealth inequality dynamics in a pre-industrial world. It employs an unbalanced panel of wills in a combined event study and instrument variables research designs to explore the wealth inequality dynamics in Mexico during the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. The findings suggest that weak public finances and financial crisis led to increasing wealth inequality through military expenditures and national debt. However, the formation of a regressive fiscal-military state and a levelling effect of warfare can coexist. Inequality depends on how war is financed and how destructive to capital and wealth the war is. 

Uppsala Papers in Economic History 2022/02 

WEHC 2022 Presentation

Energising Mexico: Historical Energy Consumption, Transitions and Economic Growth 1850-2015.

This paper employs archival data to reconstruct the historical pattern of primary energy consumption in Mexico from the 1850 to 2015 period. The study highlights the characteristics of the energy transitions between different primary energy sources and offers the first account of both traditional and modern energy carriers. It performs a trend and level analysis to explain how the economic structure, population and economic growth have impacted energy intensity and productivity. Thus, the paper provides a first approximation to the long-term relationship between economic growth and energy utilisation in Mexico. The period 1880- 1920 saw both growths in population and income increase energy consumption, the period 1921-1960 is mostly driven by income growth, 1961-2000, both growths in population and income drive consumption, and finally, between 2001 and 2015, population growth is the dominant force.

 Work in progress

Import Substitution Inequalization? Mexico’s Mesocratic Industrialization 1935-1963.

From the 1930s to 1982, Mexico experienced a sustained rapid economic growth known as the "Mexican Miracle". Economic growth was driven by the economy's structural transformation from agriculture to industry. Underlying this transformation was a process of import substitution industrialization, first a product of the Second World War, and then, from 1945 onwards, a deliberate policy of the Mexican Government. This paper shows that during the successful years of ISI 1935-1963, the policy resulted in a mesocratic income distribution. It favored the income convergence of the industrial sectors and the formation of a middle class, but the agricultural sector was left behind, thus increasing overall inequality. 

Revolutions: Inequality in comparative history.

The 20th century was full of agrarian revolutions. The four most famous revolutions in the period, the Mexican, Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions, share several characteristics and outcomes. All occurred in agrarian societies with small industrial sectors, and although with different ideologies and practical objectives, all share as one of their core elements a radical land reform. The four cases reduced inequality and ended with a strong single-party rule. Land reform was thought of not only as redistribution but also as a mechanism to kickstart or leapfrog in the industrialization process. Use the profits from the agrarian sector of the economy to pay for the development of the industrial sector, accelerating capital accumulation and the expansion of the domestic market (Kay 2002, De Janvry and Ground 1978). 

Revolutions as violent political episodes are mass mobilization events that persue institutional change. Revolutions are reactions to the perceived responsibilities of the regime; therefore, revolutions are egalitarian in nature and aim for social justice (Goldstone 2014). In the four cases studied in this work, nationalism and inequality played a significant role in either the political discourse or the structural causes of the revolution. In that sense, the four revolutions that for Eric Wolf (1969) are characterized as “peasant wars” can be categorized to some extent as a "tide" (Katz 1998, p.126) of what we call "inequality revolutions". Therefore, it is logical to expect these revolutions to affect the distribution of resources in their respective societies significantly, but not necessarily by following the same dynamics.  

Coauthored with Liang Zhao (Lund University) and Fumin Sui (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

 Work in early development