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The Extent of the Labor Market in the United States, 1850-1914

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  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom

Abstract

Between the middle of the nineteenth century and the beginning of World War I improvements in transportation and communication encouraged increasing interregional and international economic integration. This paper traces and analyzes the progress of increasing labor market integration in the United States during this period of `globalization.' It argues that although the falling cost and increasing speed of transportation and communication in this period initiated a substantial expansion of labor market boundaries, the pattern of increasing integration was strikingly uneven. By the end of the nineteenth century, labor markets in the northern United States were part of a tightly integrated regional labor market that was in turn closely linked with labor markets in northern Europe. But this regional and international integration coincided with the persistent failure of integration between northern and southern labor markets within the United States. The importance of this finding is two-fold. First, it suggests that the forces shaping the determination of wages, the evolution of wage structure, and the growth of unions cannot be understood at either a purely local, or a purely national level. Second, it shows that the process of market integration was complex, depending on the interaction between historically determined market institutions and falling transportation and communication costs.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Historical Working Papers with number 0078.

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Date of creation: Jan 1996
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Publication status: published as Social Science History, Vol. 22, no. 3 (Fall 1998): 183-205.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0078

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  1. Richard H. Steckel, 1982. "The Economic Foundations of East-West Migration During the Nineteenth Century," NBER Working Papers 0881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Robert A. Margo, 1990. "Wages and Prices During the Antebellum Period: A Survey and New Evidence," NBER Historical Working Papers 0019, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Montgomery, James D, 1991. "Social Networks and Labor-Market Outcomes: Toward an Economic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1407-18, December.
  4. Dunlevy, James A, 1980. "Nineteenth-Century European Immigration to the United States: Intended versus Lifetime Settlement Patterns," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 77-90, October.
  5. Coelho, Philip R. P. & Shepherd, James F., 1979. "The Impact of Regional Differences in Prices and Wages on Economic Growth: The United States in 1890," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(01), pages 69-85, March.
  6. Field, Alexander James, 1978. "Sectoral shift in antebellum Massachusetts: A reconsideration," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 146-171, April.
  7. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1991. "Occupational Differences in Labor Market Integration: The United States in 1890," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 427-439, June.
  8. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1990. "One Market or Many? Labor Market Integration in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 85-107, March.
  9. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1992. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets Since 1830 Background Evidence and Hypotheses," NBER Historical Working Papers 0036, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Alan M. Taylor & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1994. "Convergence in the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 4711, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 1994. "Was There a National Labor Market at the End of the Nineteenth Century? Intercity and Interregional Variation in Male Earnings in Manufacturing," NBER Historical Working Papers 0061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hatton, T.J. & Williamson, J.G., 1992. "What Drove the Mass Migrations from Europe in the Late Ninteenth Century," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1614, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  13. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1.
  14. Jeffrey G, Williamson & Kevin O'Rourke & Timothy J. Hatton, 1993. "Mass Migration, Commodity Market Integration and Real Wage Convergence: The Late Nineteenth Century Atlantic Economy," NBER Historical Working Papers 0048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1995. "Globalization, Convergence and History," NBER Working Papers 5259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Dunlevy, James A. & Saba, Richard P., 1992. "The role of nationality-specific characteristics on the settlement patterns of late nineteenth century immigrants," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 228-249, April.
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