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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

Listed author(s):
  • 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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Historical Working Papers with number 0061.

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Date of creation: Oct 1994
Publication status: published as Rosenbloom, Joshua L. "Was There A National Labor Market At The End Of The Nineteenth Century? New Evidence On Earnings In Manufacturing," Journal of Economic History, 1996, v56(3,Sep), 626-656.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0061
Note: DAE LS
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