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Wages in California during the Gold Rush

In: Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

The California Gold Rush was an unexpected shock of tremendous size that prompted the costly re-allocation of labor to a frontier region. Using newly-collected archival data, this paper presents estimates of nominal and real wages in Gold Rush California. Consistent with a simple dynamic model of labor market adjustment, real wages rose sharply during the early years of the Rush (1848-1852), declined abruptly following massive in-migration 1850s. However, although the Rush itself was a transitory event, it left California wages permanently higher. Estimates based on census data suggest that the supply of labor into Gold Rush California was about half as elastic as the supply of labor into Alaska during the Pipeline Era.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number marg00-1, October.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11514.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11514

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    Cited by:
    1. Willi Leibfritz & Paul O'Brien & Jean-Christophe Dumont, 2003. "Effects of Immigration on Labour Markets and Government Budgets - An Overview," CESifo Working Paper Series 874, CESifo Group Munich.

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