Jewish occupational selection: Education, restrictions, or minorities?

Maristella Botticini*, Zvi Eckstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Before the eighth-ninth centuries CE, most Jews, like the rest of the population, were farmers. With the establishment of the Muslim Empire, almost all Jews entered urban occupations despite no restrictions prohibiting them from remaining in agriculture. This occupational selection remained their distinctive mark thereafter. Our thesis is that this transition away from agriculture into crafts and trade was the outcome of their widespread literacy prompted by a religious and educational reform in Judaism in the first and second centuries CE, which gave them a comparative advantage in urban, skilled occupations. We present evidence that supports our argument.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)922-948
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Economic History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005


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