[Journal:] The Journal of European Economic History [ISSN:] 2499-8281 [Volume:] 49 [Year:] 2020 [Issue:] 3 [Pages:] 11-53
Many growth analysts have argued that more equal patterns of landownership and the supremacy of industry over agriculture were associated with the rise of mass public education systems during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The theoretical framework of this argument relies mainly on the so-called capitalskill complementarity hypothesis that agricultural land and industrial capital are characterized by different levels of complementarity with human skills. Thus, landowning elites were often reluctant to promote and support public education, while rising capitalists were much more in favour of a better-educated workforce and promoted major educational reforms. This paper seeks to provide some of the first empirical evidence of a significant positive relationship between more equitable distribution of landholdings and the development of literacy in late nineteenth-century Greece, using data from the Censuses of 1870 and 1879. Our estimates largely confirm previous findings of a positive and significant linkage between people's access to land and literacy rates. On the contrary, labour concentration in the farm sector (the agriculture trap) has been found to be negatively and significantly related to literacy. These results remain robust after controlling for such other socioeconomic factors as marital status, family size, urbanization, ethnicity, religion, students' attainment and teachers' availability.