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Seminars

4th Seminar: Kleoniki Alexopoulou


13-01-2020
Speaker:
Αλεξοπούλου Κλεονίκη (Πανεπιστήμιο του Τύμπινγκεν)
Comment:
Tassos Anastasiadis (École française d’Athènes)

Abstract
We study the history of human capital in the regions of the central Ottoman Empire (today’s Turkey)
and Greece during the 19th and 20th century. We investigate literacy and numeracy skills of the
population from a comparative perspective both on country and provincial level. The history of border
areas and multi-cultural regions, where many ethnicities and religions co-existed, are particularly
fascinating. Furthermore, we test the effect of geographic, demographic and socio-economic factors
such as agricultural specialisation (i.e. cash crops, livestock keeping), trade and industry development
as well as urbanization and migration on human capital formation and gender equality.
We retrieve quantitative and qualitative information from population censuses, agricultural statistical
yearbooks and administrative reports of Greece and Turkey. We use the age heaping method to
estimate regional numeracy levels (ABCC index) and we identify correlations between the numeracy
levels and gender (in)equality as well as other potential explanatory variables. We find that in both
cases gender gap is highly correlated with numeracy. In Greece, gender gap fades out around 1910,
while in Turkey it does not disappear until the birth decade of the 1950s.
The underinvestment of the Ottoman Empire into secular education mattered, and it did cast a long
shadow on regions that left the Empire. However, there are several other influential factors beyond
cultural and religious dichotomies: Within the Ottoman Imperial core, trading and industrial centres
developed more advanced human capital and higher gender equality. In the case of the new-born
Greek state, we observe high regional differentiation in literacy and numeracy levels as well as
important shifts over time. Among the Greek regions, cultural traditions initiated by contact with
Venetian and British settlers and merchants mattered. Moreover, maritime orientation of the island
economies was highly complementary with early numerical human capital and increasing gender
equality. In frequent absence of males (working often for the shipping industry or outmigrating), the
household and labour activity of women was stimulated. Finally, the mass influx of refugees from Asia
Minor into Greece during the first half of the 20th century as well as urbanisation had a controversial
effect on human capital development.
Keywords: numeracy, gender equality, Turkey, Greece, 19th and 20th century




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