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Portage: Path Dependence and Increasing Returns in U.S. History

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  • Hoyt Bleakley
  • Jeffrey Lin

Abstract

We examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphologic feature in the southeastern U.S. marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Historically, waterborne transport of goods required portage around the falls at these points, while some falls provided water power during early industrialization. These factors attracted commerce and manufacturing. Although these original advantages have long since been made obsolete, we document the continuing—and even increasing—importance of these portage sites over time. We interpret this finding in a model with path dependence arising from local increasing returns to scale.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16314.

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Date of creation: Aug 2010
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16314

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  1. Mark Wright & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2004. "Urban Structure and Growth," 2004 Meeting Papers 33, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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Cited by:
  1. Sturm, Daniel & Ahlfeldt, Gabriel & Redding, Stephen & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2013. "The Economics of Density: Evidence from the Berlin Wall," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79873, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  2. Rafael González-Val & Jose Olmo, 2011. "Growth in a cross-section of cities: location, increasing returns or random growth?," Working Papers 2011/39, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
  3. Klaus Desmet & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2010. "Urban accounting and welfare," Working Papers 2010-24, Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (IMDEA) Ciencias Sociales.
  4. Matti Sarvimäki, 2011. "Agglomeration in the Periphery," SERC Discussion Papers 0080, Spatial Economics Research Centre, LSE.
  5. Jeffrey Lin, 2012. "Geography, history, economies of density, and the location of cities," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q3, pages 18-24.
  6. Hallegatte, Stephane & Shah, Ankur & Lempert, Robert & Brown, Casey & Gill, Stuart, 2012. "Investment decision making under deep uncertainty -- application to climate change," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6193, The World Bank.

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  1. Historical Economic Geography

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