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The Farm-Nonfarm Wage Gap in the Antebellum United States: Evidence fromthe 1850 and 1860 Censuses of Social Statistics

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

Sectoral wage gaps for workers of comparable skill are central to issues in economic development and economic history. This paper presents new archival evidence on the farm-nonfarm wage gap for the United States just prior to the American Civil War. Measured at the level of local labor markets, the wage gaps are small and not very persistent over time. Aggregated to reflect the geographic distribution of farm and nonfarm labor, the gaps are larger than previously thought. I also show that investment in manufacturing capital between 1850 and 1860 responded to labor market inefficiencies indicated by the gaps: counties with relatively low farm wages experienced above-average investment.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Margo, 1995. "The Farm-Nonfarm Wage Gap in the Antebellum United States: Evidence fromthe 1850 and 1860 Censuses of Social Statistics," NBER Historical Working Papers 0072, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0072 Note: DAE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1991. "Wage gaps between farm and city: Michigan in the 1890s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 381-408, October.
    2. Maddison, Angus, 1987. "Growth and Slowdown in Advanced Capitalist Economies: Techniques of Quantitative Assessment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 649-698.
    3. Robert A. Margo, 1992. "Wages and Prices during the Antebellum Period: A Survey and New Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 173-216 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Robert A. Margo, 1998. "Labor Market Integration Before the Civil War," NBER Historical Working Papers 0109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Williamson,Jeffrey G., 1990. "Coping with City Growth during the British Industrial Revolution," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521364805, December.
    6. Sicsic, Pierre, 1992. "City-Farm Wage Gaps in Late Nineteenth-Century France," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(03), pages 675-695, September.
    7. Thomas Weiss, 1989. "Economic Growth Before 1860: Revised Conjectures," NBER Historical Working Papers 0007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Margo, Robert A. & Villaflor, Georgia C., 1987. "The Growth of Wages in Antebellum America: New Evidence," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 47(04), pages 873-895, December.
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    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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