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Was There a National Labor Market at the End of the Nineteenth Century? Intercity and Interregional Variation in Male Earnings in Manufacturing


  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom


Recent studies of late nineteenth century labor market integration have found that despite high rates of geographic mobility relatively large inter- and intra-regional differentials in real wages persisted with little tendency toward convergence. These results point to the absence of a unified national labor market, but the scope of these studies is limited by their reliance on comparisons of wage quotations for narrowly defined occupations. Such data are available for only a small and possibly unrepresentative segment of the labor force, and cover only a limited sample of cities and time periods. This paper uses an alternative source of data--average annual earnings calculated from the Census of Manufactures--to extend the examination of labor market integration to all male manufacturing workers in 114 cities from 1879 through 1919. In contrast to earlier research, the average earnings data indicate that a well integrated labor market had emerged in the Northeast and North Central regions of the country by 1879. They also reveal a strong tendency toward earnings convergence within the South Atlantic and South Central regions, suggesting the emergence of a unified southern labor market. Large and persistent North-South, and West-East differentials in earnings indicate, however, that despite the integration of regional labor markets after the Civil War, a unified national labor market had not yet developed.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 1994. "Was There a National Labor Market at the End of the Nineteenth Century? Intercity and Interregional Variation in Male Earnings in Manufacturing," NBER Historical Working Papers 0061, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0061
    Note: DAE LS

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    Cited by:

    1. Toniolo, Gianni & Conte, Leandro & Vecchi, Giovanni, 2003. "Monetary Union, institutions and financial market integration: Italy, 1862-1905," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 443-461, October.
    2. Joshua L. Rosenbloom, 1996. "The Extent of the Labor Market in the United States, 1850-1914," NBER Historical Working Papers 0078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1995. "The Decline of Non-Competing Groups: Changes in the Premium to Education, 1890 to 1940," NBER Working Papers 5202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913


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