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Conjectural Estimates of Economic Growth in the Lower South, 1720 to 1800

Listed author(s):
  • Peter C. Mancall
  • Joshua L. Rosenbloom
  • Thomas Weiss

This paper describes the first step in a larger project to build up regional estimates of economic growth before 1800 in the parts of North America that became the United States. In it we employ the method of conjectural estimation to develop new estimates of the rate of economic growth in the Lower South (modern day North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee) from 1720 to 1800 for both colonists and the Native American population of the region. Contrary to the widely held view that GDP per capita grew at a rate of 0.3 to 0.6 percent per year during the eighteenth century our best estimate is that per capita GDP grew at just 0.09 percent per year. Despite the slow growth of GDP per capita, however, the region's economy did achieve appreciable extensive growth, and achieving any advance in per capita production can be viewed as a significant accomplishment in light of the challenges that this growth posed for the economy. The difference between our estimate and those of previous studies appears to be the result of earlier scholars' undue focus on export performance. In contrast, our approach allows us to accurately account for the effect of the slowly growing domestic sector of the economy.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Historical Working Papers with number 0126.

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Date of creation: Jun 2000
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberhi:0126
Note: DAE
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  1. Shepherd, James F. & Williamson, Samuel H., 1972. "The Coastal Trade of the British North American Colonies, 1768–1772," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(04), pages 783-810, December.
  2. Mancall, Peter C. & Rosenbloom, Joshua L. & Weiss, Thomas, 2001. "Slave Prices And The South Carolina Economy, 1722 1809," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(03), pages 616-639, September.
  3. Marvin Towne & Wayne Rasmussen, 1960. "Farm Gross Product and Gross Investment in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters,in: Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century, pages 255-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Thomas Weiss, 1989. "Economic Growth Before 1860: Revised Conjectures," NBER Historical Working Papers 0007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Mancall, Peter C. & Weiss, Thomas, 1999. "Was Ecomomic Growth Likely in Colonial British North America?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(01), pages 17-40, March.
  6. Thomas J. Weiss, 1992. "U. S. Labor Force Estimates and Economic Growth, 1800-1860," NBER Chapters,in: American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War, pages 19-78 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. David, Paul A., 1967. "The Growth of Real Product in the United States Before 1840: New Evidence, Controlled Conjectures," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 27(02), pages 151-197, June.
  8. Robert E. Gallman & John Joseph Wallis, 1992. "American Economic Growth and Standards of Living before the Civil War," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gall92-1, November.
  9. Gray, Ralph & Wood, Betty, 1976. "The transition from indentured to involuntary servitude in colonial Georgia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 353-370, November.
  10. Taylor, George Rogers, 1964. "American Economic Growth Before 1840: An Exploratory Essay," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(04), pages 427-444, December.
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