George Boyer

Martin P. Catherwood Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations


George R. Boyer is a Professor in the Departments of Economics and International and Comparative Labor in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. He came to Cornell in 1982, after receiving his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Wisconsin. He is the author of An Economic History of the English Poor Law, 1750-1850 (Cambridge University Press, 1990) and of numerous articles in the field of economic history. He has served as an Associate Editor of the Industrial and Labor Relations Review and on the editorial boards of the Journal of Economic History and of Social Science History. He also has served as the Chair of the Department of Labor Economics and of the Department of International and Comparative Labor. He is a core member of Cornell's History of Capitalism Initiative.
Professor Boyer's current research examines various aspects of labor markets in Victorian Britain, including trends in working class living standards, the economics of poor relief and private charity, and unemployment and underemployment from 1870 to 1913. His book manuscript, “The Winding Road to the Welfare State: Economic Insecurity and Social Welfare Policy in Britain, 1834-1950,” is under contract with Princeton University Press.
Professor Boyer’s teaching includes undergraduate courses on the Development of Economic Thought and Institutions, the Evolution of Social Policy in Britain and America, and Twentieth Century Economic History. He is the ILR School’s Director of Teaching, and chairs the School’s Teaching Advisory Committee.

Research Focus

Professor Boyer’s current research examines British social welfare policies from 1830 to 1950, in particular the extent of working-class income insecurity, workers’ methods for coping with insecurity, and the evolution of social welfare policy during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He shows that the century leading up to the adoption of the welfare state after World War II was not a period of constantly expanding government safety nets. Indeed, social policies became more stingy from the 1830s to the 1890s, and did not begin to expand until the early twentieth century. The prototype for the social welfare policies of the 1940s cannot be found in the Victorian Poor Law. Few contemporaries in 1850, or even in 1880, could have foreseen the coming of the welfare state.


Journal Articles

  • George Boyer. 2016. "Work for their Prime, the workhouse for their age": Old Age Pauperism in Victorian England, Social Science History . 40(Spring 2016):3-32 (30 pages).
  • George Boyer. 2009. Global Warming of the Labor Legislation Climate: Comments on Fishback, Holmes, and Allen, Labor History . 50(3):350-55.
  • Jessica S. Bean, George Boyer. 2009. The Trade Boards Act of 1909 and the Alleviation of Household Poverty, British Journal of Industrial Relations . 47(2):240-264.
  • George Boyer, Timothy P. Schmidle. 2009. Poverty among the Elderly in Late Victorian England, Economic History Review . 62(2):249-78.
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 2005. Unemployment and the UK Labour Market before, during, and after the Golden Age, European Review of Economic History . 9(1):35-60.
  • George Boyer. 2004. The Evolution of Unemployment Relief before the adoption of National Insurance: Great Britain, 1834-1911, Journal of Interdisciplinary History . 34(3):393-433.
  • George Boyer. 2003. Comments on Geraghty, Márquez, and Vizcarra, Journal of Economic History . 63(2):549-554.
  • George Boyer. 2002. Politics and Welfare: The Political Economy of the English Poor Laws, Library of Economics and Liberty . 
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 2002. New Estimates of British Unemployment, 1870-1913, Journal of Economic History . 62(3):643-675.
  • George Boyer. 2001. Editor's Introduction, Industrial and Labor Relations Review . 54(3):681-682.
  • George Boyer, Robert Smith. 2001. The Development of the Neoclassical Tradition in Labor Economics, Industrial and Labor Relations Review . 54(2):199-223.
  • George Boyer. 1998. The Historical Background of the Communist Manifesto, Journal of Economic Perspectives . 12(4):151-174.
  • George Boyer. 1998. The Influence of London on Labor Markets in Southern England, 1830-1914, Social Science History . 22(3):257-285.
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1997. Migration and Labour Market Integration in Late Nineteenth-Century England and Wales, Economic History Review . 50(4):697-734.
  • George Boyer. 1997. Labour Migration in Southern and Eastern England, 1861-1901, European Review of Economic History . 1(2):191-215.
  • George Boyer. 1997. Poor Relief, Informal Assistance, and Short Time during the Lancashire Cotton Famine, Explorations in Economic History . 34(1):56-76.
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1996. Did Joseph Arch Raise Agricultural Wages? A Reply, Economic History Review . 49(2):370-376.
  • Roy E Bailey, George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1994. The Union Wage Effect in Late Nineteenth Century Britain, Economica . 61(4):435-456.
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1994. Did Joseph Arch Raise Agricultural Wages? Rural Trade Unions and the Labour Market in Late-Nineteenth Century England, Economic History Review . 47(2):310-334.
  • George Boyer, Jeffrey G Williamson. 1989. A Quantitative Assessment of the Fertility Transition in England, 1851-1911, Research in Economic History . 12:93-117.
  • George Boyer. 1989. Malthus Was Right After All: Poor Relief and Birth Rates in Southeastern England, Journal of Political Economy . 97(1):93-114.
  • George Boyer. 1988. What Did Unions Do in Nineteenth Century Britain?, Journal of Economic History . 48(2):319-332.
  • George Boyer. 1986. The Poor Law, Migration, and Economic Growth, Journal of Economic History . 46(2):419-430.
  • George Boyer. 1986. The Old Poor Law and the Agricultural Labor Market in Southern England: An Empirical Analysis, Journal of Economic History . 46(1):113-135.
  • George Boyer. 1985. An Economic Model of the English Poor Law circa 1780-1834, Explorations in Economic History . 22(2):129-167.


  • George Boyer. . The Winding Road to the Welfare State: Economic Insecurity and Social Welfare Policy in Britain, 1834-1950. (Revising to Resubmit)
  • George Boyer. 1990. An Economic History of the English Poor Law, 1750-1850. Cambridge University Press, 1990. 

Book Chapters

  • George Boyer. 2009. Insecurity, Safety Nets, and Self-Help in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. in Human Capital and Institutions: A Long Run View. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2009. David Eltis, Frank Lewis, and Kenneth Sokoloff. (46-89)
  • George Boyer. 2007. The Convergence of Living Standards in the Atlantic Economy, 1870-1930. in The New Comparative Economic History. Cambridge, Mass., United States: MIT Press, 2007. Timothy Hatton, Kevin O'Rourke, and Alan Taylor. (317-342)
  • George Boyer. 2004. Living Standards, 1860-1939. in The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Roderick Floud, Paul Johnson. (280-313)
  • George Boyer, Robert Smith. 1998. Labor Economics. in Industrial Relations at the Dawn of the New Millennium. Ithaca NY, United States: New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, 1998. Jean T McKelvey, Maurice F Neufeld. 
  • Robert Smith, George Boyer. 1998. Labor Economics. in Industrial Relations at the Dawn of the New Millennium. Ithaca NY, United States: New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, 1998. Jean T McKelvey, Maurice F Neufeld. (97-114)
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1998. Wage Trends in the Regions of the United Kingdom, 1860-1913. in Kingdoms United?. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 1998. S Connolly. (135-152)
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton. 1994. Regional Labour Market Integration in Britain, 1850-1913. in The Evolution of Labour Markets. New York NY, United States: Routledge, 1994. M MacKinnon, G Grantham. (84-106)
  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton, Kevin O'Rourke. 1994. The Impact of Emigration on Real Wages in Ireland, 1850-1914. in Migration and World Development, 1850-1939. New York NY, United States: Routledge, 1994. T J Hatton, J G Williamson. (221-239)

Book Reviews

  • George Boyer. 2010. Pauper Capital: London and the Poor Law, 1790-1870. in EH.Net. 2010. 
  • George Boyer. 2010. Wealth and Welfare States: Is America a Laggard or Leader?. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2010. (207-8)
  • George Boyer. 2009. Historical Statistics of the United States: Millenial Edition. Volume 2: Work and Welfare. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2009. (440-442)
  • George Boyer. 2005. Review of Growing Public: Social Spending and Economic Growth since the Eighteenth Century. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 2005. (657-659)
  • George Boyer. 2004. Review of Poverty in Britain, 1900-1965. in EH.Net. 2004. 
  • George Boyer. 2002. Review of Poverty and Welfare in England, 1700-1850: A Regional Perspective. in Journal of Economic History. 2002. (873-874)
  • George Boyer. 2000. Review of The Logic of Charity: Amsterdam, 1800-1850. in EH.Net. 2000. 
  • George Boyer. 2000. Review of Labour History and the Labour Movement in Britain. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 2000. (189-190)
  • George Boyer. 2000. Review of The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People, 1700-1948. in EH.Net. 2000. 
  • George Boyer. 1993. England's Two Agricultural Revolutions: Review of Enclosure and the Yeoman. in Journal of Economic History. 1993. (915-923)
  • George Boyer. 1991. Review of British Unemployment, 1919-1939: A Study in Public Policy. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1991. (213-214)
  • George Boyer. 1991. Review of Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution. in Business History Review. 1991. (1009-1010)
  • George Boyer. 1990. Review of Interwar Unemployment in International Perspective. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1990. (489-490)
  • George Boyer. 1986. Review of The Economics of the Industrial Revolution. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1986. (604)
  • George Boyer. 1985. Review of The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1985. (662-663)
  • George Boyer. 1985. Review of British Labour History, 1815-1914. in Industrial and Labor Relations Review. 1985. (285-286)
  • George Boyer. 1983. Review of The Scottish Poor Law, 1745-1845. in Journal of Economic History. 1983. (320-321)

Conference Proceedings

  • George Boyer, Timothy J Hatton, Kevin O'Rourke. 1994. Emigration and Living Standards in Ireland: 1850-1914. in Eleventh International Economic History Congress. Milan, Italy: Universita Bocconi, 1994. 

Selected Works

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