IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Wage Gaps and Development; Lessons from U.S. History

  • Alex Mourmouras
  • Peter Rangazas

During the course of development, wages and labor productivity are much higher in the nonfarm sectors of the economy than in agriculture. In this paper, we examine the sources and consequences of wage and productivity gaps in the U.S. from 1800 to 2000. We build a quantitative general equilibrium model that closely matches the two-century long paths of farm and non-farm labor productivity growth, schooling, and fertility in the U.S. The family farm emerges as an important institution that contributes to differences in wages and labor productivity. Income from farm ownership compensates farm workers for the relatively low labor productivity and wages earned in agriculture. Farm ownership, along with the higher cost of raising children off the farm, generated a two-fold gap in labor productivity across the farm and nonfarm sectors in the 19th century US. Consequently, the reallocation of labor from farming to industry raised the average annual growth rate of output per worker by about half a percentage point over the 19th century. The paper also draws some lessons from the quantitative analysis of U.S. economic history for currently developing countries.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 07/105.

in new window

Length: 45
Date of creation: 01 May 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:07/105
Contact details of provider: Postal:
International Monetary Fund, Washington, DC USA

Phone: (202) 623-7000
Fax: (202) 623-4661
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Web:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Stiglitz, J.E., 1988. "Economic Organization, Information And Development," Papers 21, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Discussion Paper.
  2. Restuccia, Diego & Yang, Dennis Tao & Zhu, Xiaodong, 2008. "Agriculture and aggregate productivity: A quantitative cross-country analysis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 234-250, March.
  3. Carrington, William J & Detragiache, Enrica & Vishwanath, Tara, 1996. "Migration with Endogenous Moving Costs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 909-30, September.
  4. repec:pal:imfstp:v:54:y:2007:i:1:p:59-90 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Moav, Omer, 2001. "Cheap Children and the Persistence of Poverty," CEPR Discussion Papers 3059, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  7. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Technical Change and Human Capital Returns and Investments: Evidence from the Green Revolution," Home Pages _065, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Oded_Galor, 2004. "From Stagnation to Growth:Unified Growth Theory," Working Papers 2004-15, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  9. Au, Chun-Chung & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2006. "How migration restrictions limit agglomeration and productivity in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 350-388, August.
  10. Margo, Robert A., 2000. "Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 1820-1860," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226505077, March.
  11. Francesco Caselli, 2005. "Accounting for Cross-Country Income Differences," CEP Discussion Papers dp0667, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. Robert E. Gallman, 1992. "American Economic Growth before the Civil War: The Testimony of the Capital Stock Estimates," NBER Chapters, in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 79-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Matthias Doepke, 2001. "Accounting for Fertility Decline During the Transition to Growth," UCLA Economics Working Papers 804, UCLA Department of Economics.
  14. Rosenzweig, Mark R., 1988. "Labor markets in low-income countries," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 15, pages 713-762 Elsevier.
  15. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri, 2002. "The US Demographic Transition," RCER Working Papers 487, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  16. Moshe Hazan & Binyamin Berdugo, 2005. "Child Labor, Fertility and Economic Growth," Development and Comp Systems 0507002, EconWPA.
  17. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman II, 2001. "The U.S. Structural Transformation and Regional Convergence: A Reinterpretation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 584-616, June.
  18. Primack, Martin L., 1969. "Farm Fencing in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(02), pages 287-291, June.
  19. William Lord & Peter Rangazas, 2006. "Fertility and development: the roles of schooling and family production," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 229-261, September.
  20. Oded Galor & Omer Moav & Dietrich Vollrath, 2006. "Inequality in Land Ownership, the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions, and Great Divergence," Working Papers 2006-14, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  21. Broadberry, Stephen N. & Irwin, Douglas A., 2006. "Labor productivity in the United States and the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 257-279, April.
  22. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:07/105. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Jim Beardow)

or (Hassan Zaidi)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.