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Could the U.S. Iron Industry Have Survived Free Trade After the Civil War?

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  • Douglas A. Irwin

Abstract

An unresolved question concerning post-Civil War U.S. industrialization is the degree to which import tariffs protected domestic manufacturers from foreign competition. This paper considers the impact of import tariffs on the domestic pig iron industry, the basic building block of the entire iron and steel industry. After reviewing the contentious political debate surrounding the pig iron duties and estimating the elasticity of substitution between domestic and imported pig iron, a standard trade model provides estimates of how tariff reductions would affect domestic prices, production, imports, and welfare. The results suggest that, had the tariff been eliminated in 1869, domestic output would fall by about 15 percent and the import market share would rise from about 7 percent to nearly 30 percent. These relatively modest effects suggest that a substantial portion of the domestic industry could have survived a significant tariff reduction.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7640.

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Date of creation: Apr 2000
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Publication status: published as Irwin, Douglas A. "Could The United States Iron Industry Have Survived Free Trade After The Civil War?," Explorations in Economic History, 2000, v37(3,Jul), 278-299.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7640

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  1. Head, Keith, 1994. "Infant industry protection in the steel rail industry," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3-4), pages 141-165, November.
  2. Fogel, Robert W & Engerman, Stanley L, 1969. "A Model for the Explanation of Industrial Expansion during the Nineteenth Century: With an Application to the American Iron Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 77(3), pages 306-28, May/June.
  3. Harley, C. Knick, 1992. "The antebellum American tariff: Food exports and manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 375-400, October.
  4. Shiells, C.R. & Stern, R.M. & Deardorff, A.V., 1988. "Estimates Of The Elasticities Of Substitution Between Imports And Home Goods For The United States: Reply," Working Papers 235, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  5. Reinert, Kenneth A. & Roland-Holst, David W., 1992. "Armington elasticities for United States manufacturing sectors," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 631-639, October.
  6. Bruce A. Blonigen & Wesley W. Wilson, 1999. "Explaining Armington: What Determines Substitutability Between Home and Foreign Goods?," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(1), pages 1-21, February.
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