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Explaining America's Surge in Manufactured Exports, 1880-1913

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  • Douglas A. Irwin

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

Abstract

The United States became a net exporter of manufactured goods around 1910 after a dramatic surge in iron and steel exports began in the mid-1890s. This paper argues that natural-resource abundance fueled the expansion of iron and steel exports in part by enabling a sharp reduction in the price of U.S. exports relative to other competitors. The commercial exploitation of the Mesabi iron ore range, for example, reduced domestic ore prices by 50% in the mid-1890s and was equivalent to over a decade's worth of industry productivity improvement in its effect on iron and steel export prices. The nontradability of American ore resulted in its distinctive impact on the pattern of U.S. trade. The results are consistent with Wright's (1990) finding that U.S. manufactured exports were natural-resource-intensive at this time. © 2003 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas A. Irwin, 2003. "Explaining America's Surge in Manufactured Exports, 1880-1913," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(2), pages 364-376, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:85:y:2003:i:2:p:364-376
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    Cited by:

    1. Allen, Robert C., 2014. "American Exceptionalism as a Problem in Global History," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(02), pages 309-350, June.
    2. Stéphane Becuwe & Bertrand Blancheton & Christopher M. Meissner, 2015. "Stages of Diversification: France, 1836-1938," NBER Working Papers 21777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David Prentice, 2006. "A re-examination of the origins of American industrial success," Working Papers 2006.02, School of Economics, La Trobe University.
    4. William Hanlon, 2017. "Dynamic Comparative Advantage in International Shipbuilding: The Transition from Wood to Steel," 2017 Meeting Papers 140, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. David Prentice, 2012. "The rise of the US Portland cement industry and the role of public science," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 6(2), pages 163-192, May.
    6. Geraghty, Thomas M. & Wiseman, Thomas, 2011. "Conflict and compromise: Changes in U.S. strike outcomes, 1880 to 1945," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 519-537.
    7. Kanda Naknoi, 2008. "Tariffs and the Expansion of the American Pig Iron Industry, 1870-1940," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1214, Purdue University, Department of Economics.

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