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Productivity in manufacturing and the length of the working day: evidence from the 1880 census of manufactures

  • Atack, Jeremy
  • Bateman, Fred
  • Margo, Robert A.

Data from the manuscript census of manufacturing are used to estimate the effects of the length of the working day on output and wages. We find that the elasticity of output with respect to daily hours worked was positive but less than one—implying diminishing returns to increases in working hours. When the annual number of days worked is held constant, the average annual wage is found to be positively related to daily hours worked, but again the elasticity less than 1.0. At the modal value of daily hours (ten hours per day), it appears that from the standpoint of employers, the marginal benefits of a shorter working day (a lower wage bill) were approximately offset by the marginal cost (lower output).

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 40 (2003)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 170-194

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:40:y:2003:i:2:p:170-194
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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  1. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2002. "Part-Year Operation In Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing: Evidence From The 1870 And 1880 Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(03), pages 792-809, September.
  2. Whaples, Robert, 1990. "Winning the Eight-Hour Day, 1909–1919," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(02), pages 393-406, June.
  3. Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1984. "Was the Transition from the Artisanal Shop to the Factory Associated with Gains in Efficiency?: Evidence from the U.S. Manufacturing Censuses of 1820 and 1850," UCLA Economics Working Papers 300, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1970. "Capacity, Overtime, and Empirical Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(2), pages 23-27, May.
  5. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1992. "How Long Was the Workday in 1880?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(01), pages 129-160, March.
  6. Goldin, Claudia, 1988. "Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment: A Reassessment," Scholarly Articles 2645471, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Goldin, Claudia & Sokoloff, Kenneth, 1982. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(04), pages 741-774, December.
  8. Costa, Dora L, 2000. "The Wage and the Length of the Work Day: From the 1890s to 1991," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 156-81, January.
  9. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Rising Wage Dispersion Across American Manufacturing Establishments, 1850-1880," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0036, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  10. Landes, William M. & Solmon, Lewis C., 1972. "Compulsory Schooling Legislation: An Economic Analysis of Law and Social Change in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 54-91, March.
  11. Ben S. Bernanke, 1985. "Employment, Hours, and Earnings in the Depression: An Analysis of EightManufacturing Industries," NBER Working Papers 1642, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman, 1991. "Whom Did Protective Legislation Protect? Evidence From 1880," NBER Historical Working Papers 0033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Atack, Jeremy, 1977. "Returns to scale in antebellum United States manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 337-359, November.
  14. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
  15. Barzel, Yoram, 1973. "The Determination of Daily Hours and Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 220-38, May.
  16. Barry Eichengreen, 1987. "The impact of late nineteenth-century unions on labor earnings and hours: Iowa in 1894," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 40(4), pages 501-515, July.
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