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Transportation and development: insights from the U.S., 1840-1860

Author

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  • Berthold Herrendorf
  • James A. Schmitz
  • Arilton Teixeira

Abstract

We study the effects of large transportation costs on economic development. We argue that the Midwest and the Northeast of the U.S. is a natural case because starting from 1840 decent data is available showing that the two regions shared key characteristics with today’s developing countries and that transportation costs were large and then came way down. To disentangle the effects of the large reduction in transportation costs from those of other changes that happened during 1840?1860, we build a model that speaks to the distribution of people across regions and across the sectors of production. We find that the large reduction in transportation costs was a quantitatively important force behind the settlement of the Midwest and the regional specialization that concentrated agriculture in the Midwest and industry in the Northeast. Moreover, we find that it led to the convergence of the regional per capita incomes measured in current regional prices and that it increased real GDP per capita. However, the increase in real GDP per capita is considerably smaller than that resulting from the productivity growth in the nontransportation sectors.

Suggested Citation

  • Berthold Herrendorf & James A. Schmitz & Arilton Teixeira, 2009. "Transportation and development: insights from the U.S., 1840-1860," Staff Report 425, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:425
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2008. "The U.S. Westward Expansion," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(1), pages 81-110, February.
    2. Tasso Adamopoulos, 2011. "Transportation Costs, Agricultural Productivity, And Cross‐Country Income Differences," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 52(2), pages 489-521, May.
    3. Akos Valentinyi & Berthold Herrendorf, 2008. "Measuring Factor Income Shares at the Sector Level," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 820-835, October.
    4. Thomas Weiss, 1987. "The Farm Labor Force by Region, 1820-1860: Revised Estimates and Implications for Growth," NBER Working Papers 2438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Coelho, Philip R. P. & Shepherd, James F., 1976. "Regional differences in real wages: The United States, 1851-1880," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 203-230, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Dave Donaldson & Richard Hornbeck, 2016. "Railroads and American Economic Growth: A "Market Access" Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 799-858.
    2. Pablo Fajgelbaum & Stephen J. Redding, 2014. "External Integration, Structural Transformation and Economic Development: Evidence From Argentina," CEP Discussion Papers dp1273, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    3. Pablo Fajgelbaum & Stephen J. Redding, 2014. "External Integration, Structural Transformation and Economic Development: Evidence from Argentina 1870-1914," NBER Working Papers 20217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Berthold Herrendorf & Richard Rogerson & ?kos Valentinyi, 2013. "Two Perspectives on Preferences and Structural Transformation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 2752-2789, December.
    5. Trevor Tombe, 2012. "Structural Change and Regional Convergence: The Case of Declining Transport Costs," Working Papers tt0061, Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Economics, revised 2012.
    6. Tombe, Trevor, 2011. "Structural change and regional convergence: the case of declining transport costs," MPRA Paper 34053, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Pérez-Cervantes Fernando, 2014. "Railroads and Economic Growth: A Trade Policy Approach," Working Papers 2014-14, Banco de México.
    8. Tombe, Trevor, 2010. "Regions, frictions, and migrations in a model of structural transformation," MPRA Paper 26641, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Felis-Rota, Marta, 2014. "A VAR Analysis of the Transportation Revolution in Europe," Working Papers in Economic History 2014/01, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).

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    Keywords

    Transportation ; Middle West ; Developing countries;

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