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Dealing with economic stress through migration: Lessons from nineteenth century rural Sweden

MARTIN DRIBE
European Review of Economic History
Vol. 7, No. 3 (DECEMBER 2003), pp. 271-299
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41377941
Page Count: 29
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Dealing with economic stress through migration: Lessons from nineteenth century rural Sweden
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Abstract

Preindustrial society was characterised by vast uncertainties due to harvest failures and fluctuations in prices of basic commodities. These economic fluctuations had severe effects on the standard of living, especially for the poorer segments of the population, as shown for instance, by the increased mortality following economic crises. This article examines the extent to which migration could be used as a measure to deal with economic stress by sending individual family members away, or relocating the entire family. A micro-level approach is taken, where a longitudinal dataset at the individual level is used in the analysis of a rural community in southern Sweden for the period 1829-1866. The results show that landless people did not move in response to economic stress, most likely because of the lack of available alternatives and prohibitively high costs of long-range migration. Thus, migration does not appear to have been an effective way of dealing with economic stress in this preindustrial rural community.

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