Informations and abstract
Our enquiry sets out to establish the contribution of households of the working class to the financial accumulation of English households. For the period 1800 to 1880 we follow the growth of financial institutions whose clients were predominantly members of the working class. After 1880 there were important changes in demography and in the institutional framework, with the reduction of the size of the family and the introduction of State intervention to protect workers experiencing hard times. Detailed, although limited, information on financial assets exists through statistical surveys on the working class. These surveys were made in various cities between 1899 and 1952. Assembling different statistical sources, it is possible to estimate the amounts of liquid assets and insurance assets held by the working class from 1880 to 1950. Furthermore, for the period from 1920 to 1950, it is possible to compare the entire financial assets of the working class and those of households. The information gathered shows that, in the period under examination, there was a noticeable increase of financial assets in the hands of the working class. In comparison with total households, at the end of the period the working class had 36 per cent of liquid assets and 46 per cent of insurance assets. Considering the entire range of financial assets the role of the working class was more modest; still, it grew to reach a share of 20 per cent by 1950. The main determinants of this continuous growth of the financial assets of the working class are to be found in a progressive evolution of the objectives for saving. Before World War I the main motivation for saving was to provide for insecurity, to avoid a worsening of life conditions. Later the main reason to save became the attempt to improve the quality of life, through the acquisition of durable goods. Furthermore the desired level of quality of life did not remain constant, but it kept growing over time.