Working Paper BETA #2017-01

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Title : Human capital accumulation in France at the dawn of the XIXth century: Lessons from the Guizot Inquiry

Author(s) : Magali Jaoul-Grammare, Charlotte Le Chapelain

Abstract : Building on the results of the Guizot Inquiry, carried out in autumn 1833 on the initiative of François Guizot, the minister of public instruction, this article examines the process of human capital accumulation in early nineteenth-century France. We rely on an original proxy for human capital – student achievement – to highlight the high level of heterogeneity in human capital accumulation in this period. We identify two types of schools in the French educational landscape: first, large schools, well-endowed in human and material resources, which contributed a great deal to human capital accumulation; second, small schools, characterised by some degree of amateurism and improvisation, which weakly contributed to human capital formation. We note that the use of literacy rates or school enrollment rates can be misleading with regard to the estimation of French human capital endowments, laying emphasis instead on the heterogeneity in the French educational landscape at the dawn of the nineteenth century, as the country embarked on the process of industrialisation.

Key-words : Guizot Inquiry, Human Capital Accumulation, France, Nineteenth Century

JEL Classification : C10, I21, N33