November 2009

IZA DP No. 4556: Catch Me If You Can: Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution

published as 'Education and Catch-up in the Industrial Revolution' in: American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2011, 3 (3), 92-126

Existing evidence, mostly from British textile industries, rejects the importance of formal education for the Industrial Revolution. We provide new evidence from Prussia, a technological follower, where early-19th-century institutional reforms created the conditions to adopt the exogenously emerging new technologies. Our unique school-enrollment and factory-employment database links 334 counties from pre-industrial 1816 to two industrial phases in 1849 and 1882. Controlling extensively for pre-industrial development, we use pre-industrial education as an instrument to identify variation in later education that is exogenous to industrialization itself. We find that basic education significantly accelerated non-textile industrialization in both phases of the Industrial Revolution.