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Capital Intensity and U.S. Country Population Growth during the Late Nineteenth Century


  • Burton A. Abrams

    () (Department of Economics, university pf Delaware)

  • Jing Li
  • James G. Mulligan

    () (Department of Economics, University of Delaware)


The United States witnessed substantial growth in manufacturing and urban populations during the last half of the nineteenth century. To date, no convincing evidence has been presented to explain the shift in population to urban areas. We find evidence that capital intensity, particularly new capital in the form of steam horsepower, played a significant role in drawing labor into counties and by inference into urban areas. This provides support for the hypothesis that the locational decisions of manufacturers and their placement of capital in urban areas fueled urban growth in the nineteenth century.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:dlw:wpaper:12-02.

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Sukkoo Kim, 2007. "Immigration, Industrial Revolution and Urban Growth in the United States, 1820-1920: Factor Endowments, Technology and Geography," NBER Working Papers 12900, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Abrams, Burton A. & Li, Jing & Mulligan, James G., 2008. "Did Corliss Steam Engines Fuel Urban Growth in the Late Nineteenth Century? Less Sanguine Results," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(04), pages 1172-1176, December.
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    More about this item


    urbanization; capital intensity; regional population growth; technological change;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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