Consumption Baskets and Cost of Living in Southern Late Colonial Brazil: Rio Grande, 1772-1823

Abstract: This paper examines the cost of living and evolution of welfare ratios among urban workers in Rio Grande's vila, the main commercial enclave of the southern Portuguese dominions in America. From diverse sources (military and hospital expenditure accounts, merchant credit bills from probate inventories), we build different consumption baskets to calculate their cost in seven benchmark years: 1772, 1792, 1802, 1809, 1816, 1819 and 1823. The evolution of cost of living shows a consistent upward trend during the period, which, however, does not substantially affect welfare ratios. In order to build regional comparisons, we follow Allen's methodology (2001) to estimate welfare ratios of skilled and unskilled workers in Rio Grande, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The results of using this approach could be useful to adjust the methodology for further international comparisons.