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The Savings of Ordinary Americans: The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

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  • Alter, George
  • Rotella, Elyce
  • Goldin, Claudia

Abstract

We explore the savings behavior of ordinary Americans through their accounts at the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, the oldest mutual savings bank in the United States. Our sample contains all 2,374 accounts opened in 1850. Savings accounts were generally brief affairs, but median balances mounted to about three-quarters of annual income in three years. Deposits and withdrawals were infrequent, but substantial. Only female servants, as a group, used their accounts for life-cycle savings, eventually amassing large nest eggs. Men often used them to hold funds before acquiring physical property. We estimate saving rates between 10 and 15 percent on active accounts.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 2643655.

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Date of creation: 1994
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic History
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2643655

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  1. Deaton, Angus, 1991. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1221-48, September.
  2. Goldin, Claudia & Rockoff, Hugh (ed.), 1992. "Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226301129.
  3. Fishlow, Albert, 1961. "The Trustee Savings Banks, 1817–1861," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(01), pages 26-40, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Di Matteo, Livio, 2013. "Women, wealth and economic change: An assessment of the impact of women's property law in Wentworth County, Ontario, 1872–1927," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 285-307.
  2. Chulhee Lee, 2004. "Intra-household transfers and old-age security in America, 1890-1950," International Economic Journal, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(1), pages 79-102.
  3. Mersland, Roy, 2005. "Microcredit for self-employed disabled persons in developing countries," MPRA Paper 2068, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Susan B. Carter & Richard Sutch, 1995. "Myth of the Industrial Scrap Heap: A Revisionist View of Turn-of-the- Century American Retirement," NBER Historical Working Papers 0073, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Cormac Ó Gráda & Eugene N White, 2002. "Who Panics during Panics? Evidence from a Nineteenth Century Bank," Working Papers 200212, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.

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