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Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing

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  • Atack, Jeremy
  • Bateman, Fred
  • Margo, Robert A.

Abstract

We use establishment-level data from the 1850-1880 censuses of manufacturing to study the relationships among establishment size, steam power use, and labor productivity. Large establishments, measured here by employment, were much more likely to use steam power than smaller establishments. By 1880, slightly more than half of all manufacturing workers were employed in establishments using steam power, compared with 17 percent in 1850 and we show that, after controlling for various establishment characteristics, steam-powered establishments had higher labor productivity than establishments using other sources of power. Moreover, this productivity differential was increasing in establishment size.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 45 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 185-198

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:45:y:2008:i:2:p:185-198

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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  1. Halsey, Harlan I., 1981. "The Choice Between High-Pressure and Low-Pressure Steam Power in America in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(04), pages 723-744, December.
  2. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Weiss, Thomas, 1980. "The Regional Diffusion and Adoption of the Steam Engine in American Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(02), pages 281-308, June.
  3. Atack, Jeremy, 1979. "Fact in fiction? The relative costs of steam and water power: a simulation approach," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 409-437, October.
  4. Broadberry S. N., 1994. "Comparative Productivity in British and American Manufacturing during the Nineteenth Century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 521-548, October.
  5. Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1986. "Productivity Growth in Manufacturing during Early Industrialization: Evidence from the American Northeast, 1820-1860," NBER Chapters, in: Long-Term Factors in American Economic Growth, pages 679-736 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Robert E. Gallman, 1986. "The United States Capital Stock in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters, in: Long-Term Factors in American Economic Growth, pages 165-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins Of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732, August.
  9. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0045, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  10. Ackerberg, Daniel & Caves, Kevin & Frazer, Garth, 2006. "Structural identification of production functions," MPRA Paper 38349, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2005. "Capital deepening and the rise of the factory: the American experience during the nineteenth century -super-1 ," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 58(3), pages 586-595, 08.
  12. Sukkoo Kim, 2005. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 11206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  14. Temin, Peter, 1966. "Steam and Waterpower in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 26(02), pages 187-205, June.
  15. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2001. "Part-Year Operation in Nineteenth Century American Manufacturing: Evidence from the 1870 and 1880 Censuses," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0106, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics, revised Mar 2001.
  16. David, Paul A, 1990. "The Dynamo and the Computer: An Historical Perspective on the Modern Productivity Paradox," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 355-61, May.
  17. Kim, Sukkoo, 2004. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," Institute of European Studies, Working Paper Series qt4hd75171, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley.
  18. Kim, Sukkoo, 2005. "Industrialization and urbanization: Did the steam engine contribute to the growth of cities in the United States?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 586-598, October.
  19. Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Labor Force in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Historical Working Papers 0040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2004. "Skill Intensity and Rising Wage Dispersion in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 172-192, March.
  21. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2004. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 61-99, March.
  22. Broadberry, Stephen N. & Irwin, Douglas A., 2006. "Labor productivity in the United States and the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 257-279, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Klaus Desmet & Stephen L. Parente, 2009. "The Evolution of Markets and the Revolution of Industry: A Unified Theory of Growth," Development Working Papers 284, Centro Studi Luca d\'Agliano, University of Milano.
  2. Lawrence F. Katz & Robert A. Margo, 2013. "Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Eric Hilt, 2013. "Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts," NBER Chapters, in: Enterprising America: Business, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. James Bessen, 2009. "More Machines, Better Machines...Or Better Workers?," Working Papers 0803, Research on Innovation.
  5. Claudia Olivetti, 2013. "The Female Labor Force and Long-run Development: The American Experience in Comparative Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Burton A. Abrams & Jing Li & James G. Mulligan, 2012. "Capital Intensity and U.S. Country Population Growth during the Late Nineteenth Century," Working Papers 12-02, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  7. Jeremy Atack & Michael R. Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2008. "Railroads and the Rise of the Factory: Evidence for the United States, 1850-70," NBER Working Papers 14410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Robert A. Margo, 2013. "Economies of Scale in Nineteenth Century American Manufacturing Revisited: A Resolution of the Entrepreneurial Labor Input Problem," NBER Working Papers 19147, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Shih-tse Lo & Dhanoos Sutthiphisal, 2008. "Crossover Inventions And Knowledge Diffusion Of General Purpose Technologies? Evidence From The Electrical Technology," NBER Working Papers 14043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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