The Role of Exports in the Economy of Colonial North America: New Estimates for the Middle Colonies
Economic historians of the eighteenth-century British mainland North American colonies have given considerable weight to the role of exports as a stimulus for economic growth. Yet their analyses have been handicapped by reliance on one or two time series to serve as indicators of broader changes rather than considering the export sector as a whole. Here we construct comprehensive export measures for the middle colonies. We find that aggregate exports did grow quickly but that this expansion failed to keep pace with population growth during much of the period under consideration. We argue this result challenges the export staples model on the role of foreign demand as a stimulus for economic growth. Instead, these results emphasize the impact of resource abundance and labor and capital scarcity as the defining characteristics of colonial economic growth.
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|Date of revision:||Sep 2008|
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