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Portage and Path Dependence

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  • Hoyt Bleakley
  • Jeffrey Lin

Abstract

Many cities in North America formed at obstacles to water navigation, where continued transport required overland hauling or portage. Portage sites attracted commerce and supporting services, and places where the falls provided water power attracted manufacturing during early industrialization. We examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphological feature in the southeastern United States marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Although their original advantages have long since become obsolete, we document the continuing importance of historical portage sites. We interpret these results as path dependence and contrast explanations based on sunk costs interacting with decreasing versus increasing returns to scale. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 127 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 587-644

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:127:y:2012:i:2:p:587-644

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  1. Thomas J. Holmes & Sanghoon Lee, 2009. "Economies of Density versus Natural Advantage: Crop Choice on the Back Forty," NBER Working Papers 14704, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rappaport, Jordan & Sachs, Jeffrey D, 2003. " The United States as a Coastal Nation," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 5-46, March.
  3. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
  4. Bester, C. Alan & Conley, Timothy G. & Hansen, Christian B., 2011. "Inference with dependent data using cluster covariance estimators," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 165(2), pages 137-151.
  5. James E. Rauch, 1993. "Does History Matter Only When it Matters Little? The Case of City-Indu try Location," NBER Working Papers 4312, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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