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The Extent of the Labor Market in the United States, 1850-1914

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  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom

Abstract

Between the middle of the nineteenth century and the beginning of World War I improvements in transportation and communication encouraged increasing interregional and international economic integration. This paper traces and analyzes the progress of increasing labor market integration in the United States during this period of `globalization.' It argues that although the falling cost and increasing speed of transportation and communication in this period initiated a substantial expansion of labor market boundaries, the pattern of increasing integration was strikingly uneven. By the end of the nineteenth century, labor markets in the northern United States were part of a tightly integrated regional labor market that was in turn closely linked with labor markets in northern Europe. But this regional and international integration coincided with the persistent failure of integration between northern and southern labor markets within the United States. The importance of this finding is two-fold. First, it suggests that the forces shaping the determination of wages, the evolution of wage structure, and the growth of unions cannot be understood at either a purely local, or a purely national level. Second, it shows that the process of market integration was complex, depending on the interaction between historically determined market institutions and falling transportation and communication costs.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0078
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Williamson Jeffrey G., 1995. "The Evolution of Global Labor Markets since 1830: Background Evidence and Hypotheses," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 141-196, April.
    2. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
    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. Hatton, T.J. & Williamson, J.G., 1992. "What Drove the Mass Migrations from Europe in the Late Ninteenth Century," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1614, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1991. "Occupational Differences in Labor Market Integration: The United States in 1890," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(02), pages 427-439, June.
    6. Taylor, Alan M. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1997. "Convergence in the age of mass migration," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 27-63, April.
    7. Dunlevy, James A, 1980. "Nineteenth-Century European Immigration to the United States: Intended versus Lifetime Settlement Patterns," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 77-90, October.
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    10. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson & T. J. Hatton, 1993. "Mass migration, commodity market integration and real wage convergence : the late nineteenth century Atlantic economy," Working Papers 199325, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    11. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1990. "One Market or Many? Labor Market Integration in the Late Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(01), pages 85-107, March.
    12. 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.
    13. Jeffrey G. Williamson, 1995. "Globalization, Convergence and History," NBER Working Papers 5259, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    16. Field, Alexander James, 1978. "Sectoral shift in antebellum Massachusetts: A reconsideration," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 146-171, April.
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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
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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