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Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing

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

Abstract

We use establishment-level data from the 1850-1880 censuses of manufacturing to study the relationships among establishment size, steam power use, and labor productivity. Large establishments, measured here by employment, were much more likely to use steam power than smaller establishments. By 1880, slightly more than half of all manufacturing workers were employed in establishments using steam power, compared with 17 percent in 1850 and we show that, after controlling for various establishment characteristics, steam-powered establishments had higher labor productivity than establishments using other sources of power. Moreover, this productivity differential was increasing in establishment size.

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  • Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2008. "Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 185-198, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:45:y:2008:i:2:p:185-198
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Economies of Scale in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing Revisited: A Resolution of the Entrepreneurial Labor Input Problem," NBER Chapters, in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 215-244, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Svante Prado, 2014. "Yeast or mushrooms? Productivity patterns across Swedish manufacturing industries, 1869–1912," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(2), pages 382-408, May.
    3. Claudia Olivetti, 2014. "The Female Labor Force and Long-Run Development: The American Experience in Comparative Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 161-197, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Pleijt, Alexandra M. de & Nuvolari, Alessandro & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2016. "Human Capital Formation during the First Industrial Revolution: Evidence from the Use of Steam Engines," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 294, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Eric Hilt, 2014. "Corporate Governance and the Development of Manufacturing Enterprises in Nineteenth-Century Massachusetts," NBER Chapters, in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 73-102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Jeremy Atack & Michael R. Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2008. "Railroads and the Rise of the Factory: Evidence for the United States, 1850-70," NBER Working Papers 14410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Lawrence F. Katz & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Technical Change and the Relative Demand for Skilled Labor: The United States in Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 15-57, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Tomohiro Machikita & Tetsuji Okazaki, 2019. "Transition to a Modern Regime and Change in Plant Lifecycles: A Natural Experiment from Meiji Japan," CIGS Working Paper Series 19-006E, The Canon Institute for Global Studies.
    9. Theresa Gutberlet, 2014. "Mechanization and the spatial distribution of industries in the German Empire, 1875 to 1907," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(2), pages 463-491, May.
    10. Tomihiro Machikita & Tetsuji Okazaki, 2019. "Transition to a Modern Regime and Change in PlantLifecycles: A Natural Experiment from Meiji Japan," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-1122, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    11. Frey, Carl Benedikt & Osborne, Michael A., 2017. "The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 254-280.
    12. Shih-tse Lo & Dhanoos Sutthiphisal, 2008. "Crossover Inventions And Knowledge Diffusion Of General Purpose Technologies? Evidence From The Electrical Technology," NBER Working Papers 14043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. James Bessen, 2009. "More Machines, Better Machines...Or Better Workers?," Working Papers 0803, Research on Innovation.
    14. Burton A. Abrams & Jing Li & James G. Mulligan, 2012. "Capital Intensity and U.S. Country Population Growth during the Late Nineteenth Century," Working Papers 12-02, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.

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    JEL classification:

    • N61 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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