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The diffusion of the tractor in American Agriculture: 1910-1960

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  • Alan L. Olmstead
  • Paul W. Rhode

Abstract

This paper examines the impact and diffusion of the gasoline tractor in American agriculture. A key feature of the transition from horses to tractors was a long intermediate stage when both modes of power were used on the same farm. This is largely explained in the technical limitations of early tractors. In addition, we explore how rural markets and institutions adjusted to facilitate diffusion. Our simultaneous-equation regression analysis reveals that farm scale and tractor adoption had positive, independent effects on each other. Finally, we analyze diffusion as a capital replacement problem, which reveals that the shift to the new technology came far sooner than has generally been thought.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2000. "The diffusion of the tractor in American Agriculture: 1910-1960," ICER Working Papers 13-2000, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:icr:wpicer:13-2000
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    File URL: http://www.bemservizi.unito.it/repec/icr/wp2000/Olmstead132000.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Reynoldson, L. A. & Humphries, W. R. & Speelman, S. R. & McComas, Earl W. & Youngman, W. H., 1933. "Utilization and Cost of Power on Corn Belt Farms," Technical Bulletins 163614, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    2. Balke, Nathan S & Gordon, Robert J, 1989. "The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 38-92, February.
    3. John M. Brewster, 1950. "The Machine Process in Agriculture and Industry," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 32(1), pages 69-81.
    4. Whatley, Warren C., 1984. "Institutional Change and Mechanization in the Cotton South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 614-616, June.
    5. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 1995. "Beyond the Threshold: An Analysis of the Characteristics and Behavior of Early Reaper Adopters," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(1), pages 27-57, March.
    6. Abel, Andrew B., 1990. "Consumption and investment," Handbook of Monetary Economics, in: B. M. Friedman & F. H. Hahn (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 14, pages 725-778, Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lafortune, Jeanne & Tessada, José & González-Velosa, Carolina, 2015. "More hands, more power? Estimating the impact of immigration on output and technology choices using early 20th century US agriculture," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 339-358.

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