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Family Systems and Developmental Inequalities: Perspectives from Past and Present

Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

ABSTRACT|  There is growing interest in human capital and its effects on the long-term economic growth. Historical research has shown major differences in human capital formation within Europe. Explanations for them can be religion, quality of institutions, the role of landowners versus market capitalism, or investments in education. Here I want to draw the attention to yet another possible factor: the familial organization of societies. I argue that differently configured family systems may systematically enhance/diminish the agency of (specific) family members and in effect contribute to developmental inequalities between the societies, past and present. The lecture will consist of two parts: in the first one, I will review major ongoing debates oscillating around the New Institutional Economists' claim that familial behavior (or the nature of family ties) exert powerful impact on the long-run growth, contributing to developmental inequalities between societies. In the second part, I will test this proposition using historical data from Mosaic project - one of the largest infrastructural projects in the history of historical demography and family sociology ( It will be shown that certain grounds indeed exist to believe that variation in the configuration of historical family systems (in terms of power unbalances within domestic groups) could have been an important driver of human capital formation at the societal level in past societies.

BIO|  Mikolaj Szoltysek is a senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale, and former Deputy Head of the Laboratory of Historical Demography at the MPI for Demographic Research in Rostock. He was one of the founders of Mosaic - one of thelargest data infrastructure projects in historical demography for research on family patterns in historic Europe. His recent publication includes: "Rethinking East-Central Europe: family systems and co-residence in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth " (Peter Lang, 2015)