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Studies comparing regional income in Japan before and after World War II have frequently drawn a picture of radical change from an economy characterized by large regional disparities to one characterized by small regional disparities. This paper comes to a very different conclusion. Based on estimates of prefecture-level value added for five benchmark years from 1890 to 1940, the authors examine trends in the gap of economic development between prefectures during the pre-war period and find that this gap was much smaller than claimed in preceding studies and, in fact, not much greater than during the post-war period.
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