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Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development

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  • Alan L. Olmstead
  • Paul W. Rhode

Abstract

Between 1800 and 1860, the United States became the preeminent world supplier of cotton as output increased sixty-fold. Technological changes, including the introduction of improved cotton varieties, contributed significantly to this growth. Measured output per worker in the cotton sector rose four-fold and large regional differences emerged. By 1840, output per worker in the New South was twice that in the Old South. The economy-wide increase is explained, in equal measure, by growth in output per worker at fixed locations and by the reallocation of labor across regions. These results offer a new view on the dynamics of economic development in antebellum America.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16494.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Publication status: published as Alan L. Olmstead, “Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development,” pp. 180 - 213 in Paul W. Rhode, Joshua L. Rosenbloom, and David F. Weiman, eds., Economic Evolution and Revolution in Historical Tim e (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011) (with Paul W. Rhode).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16494

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  1. Wright, Gavin, 1979. "The Efficiency of Slavery: Another Interpretation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 219-26, March.
  2. Fogel, Robert W & Engerman, Stanley L, 1977. "Explaining the Relative Efficiency of Slave Agriculture in the Antebellum South," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 275-96, June.
  3. Metzer, Jacob, 1975. "Rational management, modern business practices, and economies of scale in the ante-bellum southern plantations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 123-150, April.
  4. Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2008. "Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy," NBER Working Papers 14142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Olmstead,Alan L. & Rhode,Paul W., 2008. "Creating Abundance," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521673877, October.
  6. Thomas Weiss, 1987. "The Farm Labor Force by Region, 1820-1860: Revised Estimates and Implications for Growth," NBER Working Papers 2438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Pritchett, Jonathan B., 2001. "Quantitative Estimates Of The United States Interregional Slave Trade, 1820 1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(02), pages 467-475, June.
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