various outdoor employments, such as laborers for
builders, street laborers, wharf laborers, fishermen,
etc. ; ten represent quarrymen and teamsters ; twenty-
four are taken from shop trades, such as cabinetmak-
ers, carriage-builders, hatters, cigarmakers, mechanics,
stone-cutters, and whipmakers, and ten from the la-
borers in these shop trades.
The statement of each of these families gives the
amount the father earns, the whole number of the
family, the number who work, the amount earned by
each, the total amount earned by all, how they live,
and what it costs. The average yearly earnings of the
father, the wife and children, and the cost of living in
those industries are as follows :
FAMILY SCHEDULES IN THE VARIOUS TRADES. 171
Shoe and Leather
Out-door laborers. . . .
I T V
From these facts, which are ample and reliable,
three things are manifest : (1) That the aggregate
earnings of the average family in any given class of
wage-receivers is always proportioned to the cost of
living in the average family in that class. (2) That in
proportion as the wife and children contribute to the
support of the family the wages of the father are re-
duced. (3) That the standard of living and, conse-
quently, the total income of the family is the lowest
where the wife and children contribute the most
toward its support.*
Paradoxical as the last statement may at first appear,
it is perfectly natural â€” indeed, it could not be other-
wise ; because where the mother and children go to
* " Thus it is seen that in neither of the cases where the man is
assisted by his wife or children does he earn as much as other laborers.
Also, that in the case where he is assisted by both wife and children
he earns the least." â€” Report on the Statistics of Labor, 1876 p. 71.
172 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
the mill it is impossible for the wants, which result
from the refining influences of social life, to be de-
veloped to the same extent as where the mother pre-
sides at the home and the children attend school.
Accordingly, if we take the shoe trades, metal-workers,
and the building trades together, where the proportion
of children that work is only as one to every three
families, the average earnings of the father come
within seven dollars and forty-two cents a year of the
total cost of the family's living ; whereas, if the metal-
workers' laborers, mill laborers, shop laborers, and out-
door laborers are taken together, where the number of
children that work are as one and one quarter to each
family, the average earnings of the father are two
hundred and thirty-two dollars and twelve cents a
year less than the cost of the family's living. This
difference is still greater when we consider the fact
that the average total cost of living in the latter class
is nearly one hundred dollars a year less than in the
The same is true of women, the marked difference
between their wages and those of men being explained
upon the same principle. It may be urged that the
cost of a woman's living, other things being the same,
is as great as that of a man's. If the cost of living
was measured by the personal expenses of the single
individual, instead of by that of the family, as we
have explained, this would be to some extent true ;
but the cost of living of the workers always includes
that of the non-workers also. Hence, in proportion
as the non-workers are reduced are the demands upon
the earnings of the workers lessened and their wages
accordingly reduced. It is for this reason that the
wages of the father, as shown above, are reduced in
WOMEN'S WAGES, WHY LESS THAN MEN'S. 173
proportion as the wife and children contribute to the
support of the family.
As the man is much more generally the head and
chief earner of the family, a much larger number are
dependent upon the wages of the average man than
upon those of the average woman. Again, although
the wants of the average woman in the same social
environment, for amusements, travel, etc., are equal
to those of the average man, they are generally fur-
nished by the man, as father, friend, or lover, and
therefore really constitute an item in the normal ex-
penses of the man, instead of those of the woman. It
will thus be seen that, other things being the same,
the cost of living of the average man is much greater
than that of the average woman, and his wages are
correspondingly higher, as shown in following tables.*
Wages and Cost of Living of Males.
Berkshire. . .
Franklin. . . .
Hampden. . .
Middlesex . .
Nantucket. . .
Plymouth. . .
Worcester. . .
For the State
4 T 3
* Seventh Annual Report of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics
of Labor for 1876, pp. 66-69. These tables are based upon 71,339
174 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
Wages and Cost of Living of Females.
Berkshire . . .
Hampden . , .
Middlesex. . .
Nantucket. . .
Plymouth . . .
Worcester. . .
For the State
It will thus be seen that the number of persons sus-
tained by the earnings of the average woman through-
out the State is only one and seventy-eight hundredths,
while that of those dependent upon the earnings of
the average man is three and eight hundredths.
Hence the yearly wages of the woman are only one
hundred and ninety-eight dollars and seventy-six cents,
and the cost of her living is one hundred and eighty-
two dollars and eighty- six cents ; while the wages of
the average man are four hundred and eighty-two
dollars and seventy-two cents, and the cost of his
living is four hundred and eighty-eight dollars and
Although this principle has never been understood
by economists and statesmen, it has long been un-
consciously acted upon by practical men. It is upon
this principle that employers import low-paid laborers
from distant countries. The English manufacturers
imported agricultural laborers into Lancashire, and
DR. ENGEL S LAW OF EXPENDITURES. 175
American capitalists import Asiatic and European la-
borers to this country for no other reason than that they
could live upon less and therefore work for lower wages
than could the Lancashire and American laborers.
SECTION III. â€” The Theory Further Sustained by Dr.
Engel' s Law of Expenditures.
Moreover, the doctrine here laid down is not only
sustained by all industrial history, but it is also in full
accord with the known principles of consumption as
established by " Engel's law" of expenditure. Dr.
Engel, the famous Prussian statistician, by exhaustive
investigations has discovered that the incomes of the
wages and salaried classes* are, on an average, divided
in the various channels of expenditure as follows :
(1) That the greater the income the smaller the rela-
tive percentage of outlay for subsistence ; (2) that
the percentage of outlay for clothes, rent, fuel, light,
etc., is approximately the same, whatever the income ;
and (3) that as the income increases in amount the
percentage of outlay for sundries â€” i.e., education, lit-
erature, art, travel, amusement, etc. â€” increases. f
* All who receive stipulated incomes for service are properly
wage-receivers. See definition of wages, pp. 73, 74.
f These conclusions have been fully tested by extensive investiga-
tions in Prussia, England, and America, and especially in Massachu-
setts, where more complete data has been collected than in any other
place in the world. Colonel Wright, after comparing the averages
for Prussia, England, Illinois, and Massachusetts, says : " The re-
markable harmony in the items of expenditure shown by a percentage
of total expenditure must establish the soundness of the economic
law propounded by Dr. Engel. The column of averages should,
therefore, be taken as the very best results of that law, sustained by
a wide range of data from three great countries." â€” Report of Mas-
sachusetts Labor Bureau, 1885, p. 153.
WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
It will be seen from the above that that portion of
the general consumption which goes to satisfy the
physical necessities is susceptible of very little in-
crease ; that the portion which goes for clothes, rent,
and home conditions generally, is capable of a much
larger increase, while the possibility of enlarging the
demand for that portion which goes to satisfy the in-
tellectual, moral, and social wants of man is practically
unlimited. This being true, it follows : (1) That in
proportion as the laborer's wants are limited to his
physical necessities will his wages be low and prac-
tically stationary, as in Asia, Africa, and Eastern
Europe. (2) That only in proportion as his domestic,
social, and sesthetic wants are increased â€” i.e., the
standard of living is elevated â€” will real wages rise.
The truth of this principle will be more clearly seen
by comparing the weekly wages and the number of
days' labor devoted to procuring food and those given
to the gratification of the higher social wants in the
different countries, as shown in the following table :*
Germany. . . .
* This table is all taken from Mulhall's " History of Prices,"
1885, except the wages for the United States, which are taken from
the Massachusetts Labor Bureau Report for 1884.
WANTS A ND WA GE S IN DIFFE REN T CO UN TRIE S. 1 7 7
From this table it will be seen that in those coun-
tries where the largest number of days' labor a year
is devoted to obtaining food, and the higher social
wants are the fewest, wages are the lowest, and where
the largest number of days' labor is given to supply
the higher social wants, wages are the highest. Thus,
e.g., the laborer in the United States and Great Britain
sives one hundred and thirteen and one hundred and
fourteen days a year respectively to the procuring of
food, as compared with one hundred and sixty-two in
Italy, one hundred and sixty-four in Spain, and one
hundred and eighty in Russia ; and for the gratification
of higher social wants the former gives one hundred
and fifty-four days' labor a year as against seventy-
eight in Italy, eighty in Spain, and eighty-three in
Russia. Hence we find the wages in this country are
ten dollars and eighty cents, and in England seven
dollars and forty-four cents a week, as against three
dollars and sixty cents in Italy, three dollars and
eighty-four cents in Spain, and three dollars and sixty
cents in Russia. Or, to state the case another way,
the American and Englishman, after furnishing food,
clothing, rent, and taxes â€” the first three of which are
superior to those in any other country â€” have left to
supply luxuries and to gratify aesthetic wants the prod-
ucts of fourteen days a year more than the Frenchman,
twenty-three more than the Scandinavian, forty-one
more than the Austrian, forty-three more than the
German, sixty eight more than the Spaniard, sixty-
nine more than the Russian, and seventy-three more
than the Italian. Accordingly, we see the wages of
the American are double the European and more than
two and a half times those of the continental average ;
178 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
and those of England are nearly double the average
of those on the continent.
Clearly, therefore, from whatever point of view we
consider the subject, and whatever class of data we
examine, the evidence is ample and conclusive that
the standard of living is the economic law of wages.
WAGES UNDER PIECE-WORK.
" PlECE-WORK " is one of the most delusive expres-
sions in the whole economic vocabulary. It implies,
and the idea is generally accepted among both la-
borers and employers, that wages are governed by a
different principle under " piece-work" than under
"day-work"; that under the former the amount the
laborer receives is determined by the quantity he pro-
duces, while under the latter it is governed by the
number of days he works. Although this has the ap-
pearance of truth, it contains the very essence of error.
" Day-work" and " piece-work" are merely different
methods for buying and selling given quantities of
labor, and not different principles for regulating the
price of labor. The fact that wages are sometimes
measured by the number of hours, and sometimes by
the amount of labor performed or the result accom-
plished, in no way affects the principle by which the
daily amount received is finally determined. Eco-
nomic prices are governed by the same law, by what-
ever method the sale takes place.
For the same reason that potatoes would be neither
cheaper nor dearer because they were sold by the peck
or by the pound are wages ultimately neither higher
nor lower because work is done by the day or by the
piece. If it cost three cents a yard to manufacture a
certain grade of cotton cloth, three cents a yard is the
I So WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
lowest at which that cloth can be continuously sold.
If it was sold by the pound the manufacturer could
not afford to take any less, nor would the consumer
consent to give any more for it on that account. If
seven yards weigh a pound, for the same reason that
three cents is the lowest that can be taken for a yard,
twenty-one cents is the lowest that can be taken for a
pound. As we have seen, what the cost of production
is to the price of commodities, the cost of living is to
the price of labor. Hence, for the same reason that
under " day-work" the daily wages are governed by
the daily wants (cost of living), under " piece-work"
the price per " piece" is governed by the amount pro-
duced per day.*
The " piece-work" price always moves in an inverse
ratio with the quantity produced. Both movements,
however, are governed by the same law. Therefore,
the fact that under " piece-work" the price per piece
rises and falls in an inverse ratio with the quantity pro-
duced, is as constant and universal as that under " day-
work" the price per day rises and falls in a direct ratio
with the cost of living. It is by the operation of this
principle that the price of commodities is reduced by
improved methods of production. If the same price
per yard for weaving, spinning, etc., was paid with
the power-loom and self-acting mule as with the
* So generally is this fact recognized, that it is a common thing to
find workmen agreeing among themselves not to do more than a cer-
tain quantity of work, because repeated experience has taught them
that if they do their wages will soon be proportionately reduced.
That is why, in some trades, the unions forbid the men to produce
more than a given quantity per day, which is so bitterly denounced as
one of the injurious features of trades unions. This practice is
adopted the most when new kinds of work or new machinery are intro-
duced, in order to keep the price " per piece" as high as possible.
DA Y- WA GES GO VERN PIECE- WORK PRICES. 1 8 1
spinning-wheel and hand-loom, woven fabrics would
be as dear to-day as they were a hundred years ago.
Although this law has never been understood, it has
always been implicitly obeyed. Consequently, where-
ever the wages system prevails, whether the price of
labor is fixed by royal proclamation, statute law, or
competition, we find the rate of wages tends to conform
to the cost of living, and the price of "piece-work"
to the rate of wages for " day-work." This fact was
clearly recognized by Karl Marx, who says :* " Piece
wages are only another form of time wages, although
it appears as though in this kind of wages the price of
labor was determined by the quantity of product
yielded. In fixing the piece wages the following ques-
tions arise : What is the duration of the customary
working day ? What quantity of goods does a laborer
of the average industriousness and ability make in
this time ? What are the daily wages under these cir-
cumstances ? Suppose we find out that, on an average,
thirty pieces of one commodity can be produced by a
laborer in a working day of twelve hours, for which he
receives a day's wages of one dollar and fifty cents,
then the piece wages for one piece of this commodity
will be five cents, for thirty pieces one dollar and fifty-
cents. Therefore the laborer will derive no benefit
from this form of wages, but the capitalist knows well
how to take advantage of it."
Accordingly, in the various statutes regulating
wages in England from the fourteenth to the eigh-
teenth centuries, we find the price fixed for " piece-
work" always sustained a uniform relation to that of
"day-work." For instance, threshing a quarter or
* Extracts from " Capital," p. 26, Weydemeyer's translation.
102 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
mowing an acre of wheat was always regarded as a
day's work. Hence, in the thirteenth century, when
harvest wages were threepence a day, the price of
mowing an acre or threshing a quarter of wheat was
threepence also. During the same period, when ar-
tisans' wages were threepence halfpenny a day,* the
price for a pair of sawyers to saw a hundred planks â€”
which was always reckoned a day's work f â€” was seven-
pence. And when " day- wages" rose after the pesti-
lence to fivepence a day, the "piece-work" price of
threshing and mowing rose to fivepence also,:]: and
that of sawing one hundred planks to a shilling Â§
So, when wages rose after the rise in prices in the
sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, the
price of " piece-work" always rose correspondingly
with that of "day-work." Thus, in 165 1 , when the
Essex magistrates fixed the wages of common laborers
at one shilling and twopence a day, the price of saw-
ing one hundred planks was fixed at two shillings and
sixpence, or one shilling and threepence for each
sawyer. And if we compare the price paid for "piece-
work" in the same industries in different countries or
localities where similar methods of production are
employed, we shall find that the rate paid will vary
according to the difference in the cost of living. Thus,
other things being the same, the price of " piece-
work," like that of " day-work," is always higher in
large cities than in small towns. The price of labor,
whether paid by the piece or by the day, has always
been from twenty-five to sixty per cent higher in
* " Work and Wages," p. 180.
\ " The sawing a hundred of planks was always estimated from
early times as a day's work." â€” Rogers's " Work and Wages," p. 392.
\ Ibid., p. 229. Â§ Ibid., pp. 236, 237.
PIECE-WORK PRICES HIGHER IN LARGE CITIES. 183
London than in the country. And for the same reason
" piece-work" as well as " day-work" prices are higher
in New York City than in London â€” higher in this
country generally than in England, and higher in Eng-
land than on the continent. Industrial statistics, as
we have seen, conclusively show that the yearly earn-
ings and the cost of living of weavers, spinners, shoe-
makers, tailors, printers, etc., who work by the piece,
sustain as close and consistent a relation to each other
as do those of bricklayers, carpenters, iron-workers,
and outdoor laborers, who work by the day.
Again, in manufacturing industries, where machinery
is extensively used and " piece-work" is the general
practice, although the average wages keep pace with
the average cost of living, the price of " piece-work"
always varies inversely with the productive capacity
of the machinery. In the cotton industry evidence of
this fact is constantly in view. Through the changes
in machinery, which are mostly gradual, it sometimes
happens that two kinds of machinery (the new and the
old) are in use in the same factory, and very often in
the same locality, at the same time, and accordingly
we frequently find two different prices paid for the
same work in the same town, and even in the same
establishment â€” not a different rate of wages, but a
different scale of prices, in order to equalize the rate of
wages. And sometimes, in order to avoid two scales
of prices for the same work, one will be put on " day-
work," the rate of wages being fixed upon the average
earnings of the other. In fact, this is the general
practice on new machinery, until its productive capac-
ity is correctly ascertained, after which the scale of
prices is fixed accordingly.
1 have, myself, seen three different prices paid for
1 84 WEALTH AND PROGRESS.
weaving the same cloth in the same room, all because
it was woven in different kinds of looms. For ex-
ample, a fifty-inch loom will not run as fast as a thirty-
inch loom â€” i.e., the shuttle will not, cceteris paribus,
pass as many times a minute across a fifty-inch space
as it will across a thirty-inch space. While the former
to-day will run at the rate of from one hundred and
thirty to one hundred and fifty picks a minute, the
latter will average from one hundred and eighty to two
hundred picks a minute. It will thus be seen that
when thirty-inch cloth is woven in forty or fifty-inch
looms, the weavers on the broad looms cannot weave
as many yards per day as those on the narrow looms ;
hence a higher price per cut or per yard is always paid
for weaving narrow cloth in broad than in narrow
looms. This has been strikingly illustrated by the
operations of sheeting manufacturers in Rhode Island
and the print-cloth manufacturers of Fall River, Mass.*
During the periods of depression in the cotton trade
the print-cloth manufacturers in Fall River have sev-
eral times stopped or run short time, in order to reduce
the stock of goods in the market, and the sheeting
manufacturers of Rhode Island, in order to produce
the same effect upon the sheeting market, suspended
the production of sheetings, and went to making print-
cloths ;f and when they came to weave print-cloth in
sheeting looms, notwithstanding the depressed state
of trade and the falling state of the labor market, they
paid three and four cents a cut more for weaving
* The manufacturers of Fall River produce over one fifth of the total
output of print cloth in the United States.
f This has frequently been made the excuse for reducing wages
instead of stopping or running short time by the Fall R.iver manufac-
A SLIDING SCALE OF PRICES. 185
print-cloth than was paid by the print-cloth manufac-
turers. In fact, this practice is so general that in
England, in the accepted schedules of prices for weav-
ing which are agreed upon by the trades unions and
the employers' associations, allowance is invariably