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Until it's Over, Over There: The U.S. Economy in World War I

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  • Hugh Rockoff

Abstract

The process by which the US economy was mobilized during World War I was the subject of considerable criticism both at the time and since. Nevertheless, when viewed in the aggregate the degree of mobilization achieved during the short period of active US involvement was remarkable. The United States entered the war in 1917 having made only limited preparations. In 1918 the armed forces were expanded to include 2.9 million sailors, soldiers, and marines; 6 percent of the labor force in the 15 to 44 age bracket. Overall in 1918, one fifth or more of the nation's resources was devoted to the war effort. By the time the Armistice was signed in 1919 a profusion of new weapons was flowing from American factories. This essay describes how mobilization was achieved so quickly, including how it was financed, and some of the long-term consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Hugh Rockoff, 2004. "Until it's Over, Over There: The U.S. Economy in World War I," NBER Working Papers 10580, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10580
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Romer, Christina D., 1988. "World War I and the postwar depression A reinterpretation based on alternative estimates of GNP," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 91-115, July.
    2. Barro, Robert J., 1987. "Government spending, interest rates, prices, and budget deficits in the United Kingdom, 1701-1918," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 221-247, September.
    3. Philip Cagan, 1958. "The Demand for Currency Relative to Total Money Supply," NBER Chapters,in: The Demand for Currency Relative to Total Money Supply, pages 1-37 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Simon Kuznets, 1945. "National Product in Wartime," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn45-1.
    5. William J. Cunningham, 1921. "The Railroads under Government Operation. I. The Period to the Close of 1918," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 288-340.
    6. F. W. Taussig, 1919. "Price-Fixing as seen by a Price-Fixer," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 33(2), pages 205-241.
    7. Phillip Cagan, 1958. "The Demand for Currency Relative to the Total Money Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 303-303.
    8. Balke, Nathan S & Gordon, Robert J, 1989. "The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 38-92, February.
    9. F. W. Taussig, 1921. "Is Market Price Determinate?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 394-411.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thomas A. Garrett, 2006. "War and pestilence as labor market shocks: manufacturing wage growth 1914-1919," Working Papers 2006-018, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    2. Roel Beetsma & Alex Cukierman & Massimo Giuliodori, 2005. "Wars, Redistribution and Civilian Federal Expenditures in the US over the Twentieth Century," DNB Working Papers 057, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    3. Greenwood, Michael J. & Ward, Zachary, 2015. "Immigration quotas, World War I, and emigrant flows from the United States in the early 20th century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 76-96.
    4. Thomas A. Garrett, 2008. "Pandemic economics: the 1918 influenza and its modern-day implications," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 74-94.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • N4 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation

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