Data on the age distribution of the labor force, by activity, appear in numerous early twentieth-century European censuses; but economic historians seem never to have explored them. This paper provides an initial examination of the age-distribution data in the Italian census of 1911, showing how they shed light on various aspects of the economy of the day, and on its preceding path.
A point of particular interest is that these data reflect the long cycle in construction, and in the production of construction materials. They further suggest that the long cycle of the engineering industry documented by its aggregate metal consumption was indeed present in the production of construction-related hardware, but notably absent from the production of machinery and, derivatively, industrial investment.
This last point denies the empirical premise of the extant interpretations of Italy’s post-Unification industrial growth; but it sits well with the new disaggregated time-series estimates of the engineering industry’s product.