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Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-60

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  • Jeremy Atack
  • Fred Bateman
  • Michael Haines
  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

For generations of scholars and observers, the "transportation revolution," especially the railroad, has loomed large as a dominant factor in the settlement and development of the United States in the nineteenth century. There has, however, been considerable debate as to whether transportation improvements led economic development or simply followed. Using a newly developed GIS transportation database we examine this issue in the context of the American Midwest, focusing on two indicators of broader economic change, population density and the fraction of population living in urban areas. Our difference in differences estimates (supported by IV robustness checks) strongly suggest that the coming of the railroad had little or no impact upon population densities just as Albert Fishlow concluded some 40 years ago. BUT, our results also imply that the railroad was the "cause" of midwestern urbanization, accounting for more than half of the increase in the fraction of population living in urban areas during the 1850s.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14640.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14640

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  1. Craig, Lee A & Palmquist, Raymond B & Weiss, Thomas, 1998. "Transportation Improvements and Land Values in the Antebellum United States: A Hedonic Approach," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 173-89, March.
  2. The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, 1960. "Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number unkn60-1, May.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Did railroads induce or follow economic growth?
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2009-06-25 18:52:00
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Cited by:
  1. Raimundo Soto, 2010. "End of the line: Railroads in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 391, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
  2. Barham, Tania & Lipscomb, Molly & Mobarak, Ahmed Mushfiq, 2011. "Development Effects of Electrification: Evidence from the Geologic Placement of Hydropower Plants in Brazil," CEPR Discussion Papers 8427, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Berger, Thor & Enflo, Kerstin, 2014. "Locomotives of Local Growth: The Short- and Long-Term Impact of Railroads in Sweden," Lund Papers in Economic History 132, Department of Economic History, Lund University.
  4. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther & Qian, Nancy, 2012. "On the Road: Access to Transportation Infrastructure and Economic Growth in China," CEPR Discussion Papers 8874, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Atack, Jeremy & Margo, Robert, 2011. "The Impact of Access to Rail Transportation on Agricultural Improvement: The American Midwest as a Test Case, 1850-1860," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 4(2), pages 5-18.
  6. Jeremy Atack & Matthew S. Jaremski & Peter L. Rousseau, 2014. "Did Railroads Make Antebellum U.S. Banks More Sound?," NBER Working Papers 20032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. repec:cge:warwcg:79 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Monica Beuran & Marie Castaing Gachassin & Gaël Raballand, 2013. "Are There Myths on Road Impact and Transport in Sub-Saharan Africa?," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 13049, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
  9. Storeygard, Adam, 2013. "Farther on down the road : transport costs, trade and urban growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6444, The World Bank.
  10. John Tang, 2013. "Railroad expansion and entrepreneurship: Evidence from Meiji Japan," AJRC Working Papers 1302, Australia-Japan Research Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  11. Jon Bakija & Adam Cole & Bradley Heim, 2008. "Jobs and Income Growth of Top Earners and the Causes of Changing Income Inequality: Evidence from U.S. Tax Return Data," Department of Economics Working Papers 2010-22, Department of Economics, Williams College, revised Jan 2012.
  12. He, Xiaobo, 2013. "Wages and Access to International Markets: Evidence from Urban China," MPRA Paper 44537, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Scott Fulford, 2010. "If financial development matters, then how? National banks in the United States 1870-1900," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 753, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 May 2012.
  14. Hornung, Erik, 2012. "Railroads and Micro-regional Growth in Prussia," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 80, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  15. Jeremy Atack & Robert A. Margo, 2009. "Agricultural Improvements and Access to Rail Transportation: The American Midwest as a Test Case, 1850-1860," NBER Working Papers 15520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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  1. Economic Logic blog
  2. Historical Economic Geography

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