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Wages in California during the Gold Rush

In: Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

The California Gold Rush was an unexpected shock of tremendous size that prompted the costly re-allocation of labor to a frontier region. Using newly-collected archival data, this paper presents estimates of nominal and real wages in Gold Rush California. Consistent with a simple dynamic model of labor market adjustment, real wages rose sharply during the early years of the Rush (1848-1852), declined abruptly following massive in-migration 1850s. However, although the Rush itself was a transitory event, it left California wages permanently higher. Estimates based on census data suggest that the supply of labor into Gold Rush California was about half as elastic as the supply of labor into Alaska during the Pipeline Era.
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Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Wages in California during the Gold Rush," NBER Chapters,in: Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860, pages 119-141 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11514
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    1. repec:eee:jrpoli:v:55:y:2018:i:c:p:196-209 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:juecon:v:102:y:2017:i:c:p:76-90 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Peter Ganong & Daniel W. Shoag, 2017. "Why Has Regional Income Convergence in the U.S. Declined?," NBER Working Papers 23609, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Willi Leibfritz & Paul O'Brien & Jean-Christophe Dumont, 2003. "Effects of Immigration on Labour Markets and Government Budgets - An Overview," CESifo Working Paper Series 874, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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