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Portage: path dependence and increasing returns in U.S. history

  • Hoyt Bleakley
  • Jeffrey Lin.

The authors examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphologic feature in the southeastern U.S. marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Historically, waterborne transport of goods required portage around the falls at these points, while some falls provided water power during early industrialization. These factors attracted commerce and manufacturing. Although these original advantages have long since been made obsolete, the authors document the continuing-and even increasing-importance of these portage sites over time. They interpret this finding in a model with path dependence arising from local increasing returns to scale.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in its series Working Papers with number 10-27.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedpwp:10-27
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  1. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2003. "Urban structure and growth," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 141, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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  1. Historical Economic Geography

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