REFRIGERATION AND DISTRIBUTION: NEW ZEALAND LAND PRICES AND REAL WAGES 1873–1939

Authors

  • David Greasley,

    1. University of Edinburgh and University of Canterbury
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  • Les Oxley

    1. 2University of Western Australia
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      We thank Kris Inwood, John Singleton, Martin Shanahan, the Journal's referees and those at the New Zealand Treasury for helpful comments on an earlier version of the paper. The financial support of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the British Academy and The Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund, grant, UOC108 are gratefully acknowledged.


Abstract

The responses in New Zealand to the opportunities of refrigeration transformed farming in the Dominion during the half-century from 1890. Closer settlement and the extension of the cultivated area combined with more intensive farming methods to increase land productivity and real gross domestic product capita to the extent that living standards in New Zealand measured by the Human Development Index ranked first in the world by 1913. In contrast, real wages in the Dominion stagnated. The refrigeration-related trade boom had powerful income distribution effects that increased sharply the land rental–wage ratio during the years to 1920. Widely diffuse land ownership in New Zealand tempered the rise in income inequality, to set the Dominion apart from other land-abundant economies of the periphery.

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