Piece rates and learning: understanding work and production in the New England textile industry a century ago
New data on individual worker’s outputs show that New England ring spinners exhibited substantial on the job learning c. 1905. Despite this, variable capital-labour ratios meant high labour turnover reduced aggregate labour productivity only fractionally. The combination of variable capital-labour ratios and piece rates meant low average experience levels did not raise unit costs. This made firms willing to hire all comers, so immigrants readily found work. Equally firms were indifferent to labour turnover, so female workers could move between home and market work. As such piece rates were as an appropriate and successful labour market institution for this period.
|Date of creation:||Mar 2003|
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- Bessen, James, 2003. "Technology and Learning by Factory Workers: The Stretch-Out at Lowell, 1842," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 63(01), pages 33-64, March.
- Nickless, Pamela J., 1979. "A New Look at Productivity in the New England Cotton Textile Industry, 1830–1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(04), pages 889-910, December.
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- Gary R. Saxonhouse, 1977. "Productivity Change and Labor Absorption in Japanese Cotton Spinning 1891–1935," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(2), pages 195-219.
- Kenneth J. Arrow, 1962. "The Economic Implications of Learning by Doing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(3), pages 155-173.
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