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Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?


  • Sukkoo Kim


Industrialization and urbanization are seen as interdependent processes of modern economic development. However, the exact nature of their causal relationship is still open to considerable debate. This paper uses firm-level data from the manuscripts of the decennial censuses between 1850 and 1880 to examine whether the adoption of the steam engine as the primary power source by manufacturers during industrialization contributed to urbanization. While the data indicate that steam-powered firms were more likely to locate in urban areas than water-powered firms, the adoption of the steam engine did not contribute substantially to urbanization.

Suggested Citation

  • Sukkoo Kim, 2005. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 11206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11206
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C., 2004. "Was 19th century British growth steam-powered?: the climacteric revisited," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 156-171, April.
    2. Helsley, Robert W. & Strange, William C., 1990. "Matching and agglomeration economies in a system of cities," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 189-212, September.
    3. Nicholas Crafts, 2004. "Steam as a general purpose technology: A growth accounting perspective," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 338-351, April.
    4. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late 19th Century," CEPR Discussion Papers 3008, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2003. "Productivity in manufacturing and the length of the working day: evidence from the 1880 census of manufactures," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 170-194, April.
    6. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2004. "Skill Intensity and Rising Wage Dispersion in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 172-192, March.
    7. Kim, Sunwoong, 1989. "Labor Specialization and the Extent of the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 692-705, June.
    8. Atack, Jeremy, 1979. "Fact in fiction? The relative costs of steam and water power: a simulation approach," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 409-437, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2008. "Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 185-198, April.
    2. Jan Lambooy, 2010. "The Evolution of Spatial Patterns over Long Time-Horizons: The Relation with Technology and Economic Development," Chapters,in: The Handbook of Evolutionary Economic Geography, chapter 22 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Sukkoo Kim, 2007. "Immigration, Industrial Revolution and Urban Growth in the United States, 1820-1920: Factor Endowments, Technology and Geography," NBER Working Papers 12900, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Gu, Qiwei & Wang, Hongqi & Zheng, Yinan & Zhu, Jingwen & Li, Xiaoke, 2015. "Ecological footprint analysis for urban agglomeration sustainability in the middle stream of the Yangtze River," Ecological Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 318(C), pages 86-99.
    5. Shih-tse Lo & Dhanoos Sutthiphisal, 2008. "Crossover Inventions And Knowledge Diffusion Of General Purpose Technologies? Evidence From The Electrical Technology," NBER Working Papers 14043, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Sukkoo Kim, 2006. "Division of Labor and the Rise of Cities: Evidence from U.S. Industrialization, 1850-1880," NBER Working Papers 12246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N60 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N90 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • R38 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location - - - Government Policy

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    1. Historical Economic Geography


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