The Distribution of Landed Properties by Value and Area: A Methodological Essay based on Prussian Data, 1886-1913

  • S. M. Eddie


Land ownership primarily determines the distribution of income and wealth in an agrarian society, but lack of market value data has hitherto hindered study of the distribution of land ownership. This problem can be overcome using readily available data - tax assessments or even simple area - which prove to be remarkably good proxy variables for market value of agricultural land. The contention is argued abstractly, then illustrated using Prussian data. A regression procedure establishes what price each of 716 properties purchased between 1886 and 1913 by the Settlement Commission for Posen and West Prussia would have commanded in the market in 1913, then the distribution of these 1913 values is compared to those of the land tax assessments of the areas of these same properties. The near-identity of the distributions implies that a treasure trove of available data on land distribution awaits exploration by researchers interested in the distribution of income and wealth.