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Primary education, industrial activities and economic growth in nineteenth-century France

Abstract : In this thesis, I study the links between primary education, industrial activities and economic development in nineteenth-century France. In the first chapter, I investigate the rationale behind the expansion of primary education in France, from the Revolution to the Guizot Law of 1833. If the unequal educational achievements between French departments have been deeply studied and related to economic, geographic and cultural factors, nearly nothing has been said about the influence of primary schools' functioning on these achievements. Thanks to the use of precise data at the level of municipalities and primary schools themselves, I show that, after the Revolution, municipalities took over the control of primary schooling in areas previously well-endowed in primary schools. By subsidising teachers, they contributed to alleviate the schooling fees and therefore the cost of education for families. This contributed to increase enrolment rates. Also, municipalities subsidising schools were recruiting and attracting more qualified and efficient teachers, which contributed to increase teaching quality and the accumulation of human capital. Municipal investment, determined both by demand and supply forces, is therefore a key factor in understanding the development of primary schooling in nineteenth-century France. The second chapter focuses on the relations between primary education and industrial activities in early nineteenth-century France. I investigate in particular how these activities influenced the presence of primary schools, enrolment rates and human capital accumulation within municipalities. To do so, I use the presence of mineral deposits to instrument the location of factories. I find that industrial activities favoured the presence of schools through an indirect income effect. A higher industrial production was leading to a higher amount of taxes collected by municipalities and therefore to a greater financial capacity to subsidise primary schooling. However, I find no positive link between industry and enrolment rates or human capital accumulation. On the contrary, I present evidence of a negative association between some industrial sectors, mining and textile in particular, and enrolment rates. In the third chapter, I study the influence of primary schooling on economic development in nineteenth-century France and up to World War I. To do so, I use three different estimation strategies. Firstly, I exploit a regression discontinuity induced by the Guizot Law to determine the impact of primary school's creation. Secondly, I use the proximity of municipalities to printing presses established by 1500 to instrument primary schooling achievement. Both methods return a positive effect of education on the subsequent growth of municipalities. Finally, I use a matching technique to evaluate the influence of schooling quality on growth, which I also find to be positive. Therefore, basic education and the acquisition of elementary knowledge and skills contributed to the development of French municipalities during the century of industrialisation and modernisation.
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Adrien Montalbo. Primary education, industrial activities and economic growth in nineteenth-century France. Economics and Finance. École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), 2019. English. ⟨NNT : 2019EHES0163⟩. ⟨tel-03168306⟩

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