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More Machines, Better Machines…or Better Workers?

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  • BESSEN, JAMES

Abstract

How much of the rapid growth in output per man-hour in nineteenth-century cotton weaving arose from technical change and how much arose from price-driven substitution of capital for labor? Using an engineering production function, I find that factor price changes account for little of the growth in output per man-hour. However, much of the growth and most of the apparent labor-saving bias arose not from inventions, but from improved labor quality—better workers spent less time monitoring the looms. Labor quality played a critical role in the persistent association between economic growth and capital deepening in this important sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Bessen, James, 2012. "More Machines, Better Machines…or Better Workers?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 44-74, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:72:y:2012:i:01:p:44-74_00
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    1. Labour repression & the Indo-Japanese divergence
      by pseudoerasmus in Pseudoerasmus on 2017-10-02 06:04:55

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    Cited by:

    1. Darrell J. Glaser & Ahmed S. Rahman, 2017. "Development and Retention of Human Capital in Large Bureaucracies," Departmental Working Papers 60, United States Naval Academy Department of Economics.
    2. Begoña Álvarez & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "The role of human capital in pre-industrial societies: Skills and earnings in eighteenth-century Castile (Spain)," Working Papers 16.03, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    3. Zha, Donglan & Kavuri, Anil Savio & Si, Songjian, 2017. "Energy biased technology change: Focused on Chinese energy-intensive industries," Applied Energy, Elsevier, pages 1081-1089.
    4. Tiago Fonseca & Francisco Lima & Sonia C. Pereira, 2017. "Understanding productivity dynamics:a task taxonomy approach," GEE Papers 0080, Gabinete de Estratégia e Estudos, Ministério da Economia, revised Sep 2017.
    5. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:1:p:289-304 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Glaser, Darrell & Rahman, Ahmed, 2015. "Human Capital on the High Seas - Job Mobility and Returns to Technical Skill During Industrialization," MPRA Paper 68351, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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