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Vol. 58, No. 4, pp. 289-301 (2007)

“Income Inequality in Tokugawa Japan -The Choshu Economy of the 1840s-”
Osamu Saito (Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University), Shunsaku Nishikawa (Professor emeritus, Keio University)

The Suggestion has recently been made that unlike north-western European countries, where early-modern economic growth was accompanied by increasing inequality, income differentials did not widen during the latter half of the Tokugawa Period. This paper, based on a region-wide survey conducted by Chôshû han in the early 1840s, provides evidence to show that the level of inequality among status groups was actually low by early modern standards. According to our calculations, the samurai's income per capita was only 1.8 times, and the non-farm group's 1.6 times, larger than the per-capita disposable income of the farm population who earned as much as 42 per cent of their total disposable income from non-farm pursuits in the form of farm family by-employment.