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Railroads and the Rise of the Factory: Evidence for the United States, 1850-70

Author

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  • Jeremy Atack
  • Michael R. Haines
  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

Over the course of the nineteenth century manufacturing in the United States shifted from artisan shop to factory production. At the same time United States experienced a "transportation revolution", a key component of which was the building of extensive railroad network. Using a newly created data set of manufacturing establishments linked to county level data on rail access from 1850-70, we ask whether the coming of the railroad increased establishment size in manufacturing. Difference-in-difference and instrument variable estimates suggest that the railroad had a positive effect on factory status. In other words, Adam Smith was right -- the division of labor in nineteenth century American manufacturing was limited by the extent of the market.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy Atack & Michael R. Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2008. "Railroads and the Rise of the Factory: Evidence for the United States, 1850-70," NBER Working Papers 14410, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14410
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Rousseau, Peter L. & Sylla, Richard, 2005. "Emerging financial markets and early US growth," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 1-26, January.
    3. Hilt, Eric, 2008. "When did Ownership Separate from Control? Corporate Governance in the Early Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(03), pages 645-685, September.
    4. Goldin, Claudia & Sokoloff, Kenneth, 1982. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(04), pages 741-774, December.
    5. Michael R. Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2006. "Railroads and Local Economic Development: The United States in the 1850s," NBER Working Papers 12381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bresnahan, Timothy F & Reiss, Peter C, 1991. "Entry and Competition in Concentrated Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 977-1009, October.
    7. Broadberry, Stephen N. & Irwin, Douglas A., 2006. "Labor productivity in the United States and the United Kingdom during the nineteenth century," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 257-279, April.
    8. Craig, Lee A & Palmquist, Raymond B & Weiss, Thomas, 1998. "Transportation Improvements and Land Values in the Antebellum United States: A Hedonic Approach," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 173-189, March.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Junichi Yamasaki, 2017. "Railroads, Technology Adoption, and Modern Economic Development: Evidence from Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 1000, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
    2. Dave Donaldson & Richard Hornbeck, 2016. "Railroads and American Economic Growth: A "Market Access" Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 799-858.
    3. Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Economies of Scale in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing Revisited: A Resolution of the Entrepreneurial Labor Input Problem," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 215-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ager, Philipp & Brückner, Markus, 2013. "Cultural diversity and economic growth: Evidence from the US during the age of mass migration," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 76-97.
    5. Alex Trew, 2014. "Spatial Takeoff in the First Industrial Revolution," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 707-725, October.
    6. Guajardo, Guillermo, 2009. "Between the Workshop and the State: Training Human Capital in Railroad Companies in Mexico and Chile, 1850-1930," MPRA Paper 16135, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Heatley, David, 2009. "The History and Future of Rail in New Zealand," Working Paper Series 4031, Victoria University of Wellington, The New Zealand Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation.
    8. Berger, Thor & Enflo, Kerstin, 2017. "Locomotives of local growth: The short- and long-term impact of railroads in Sweden," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 124-138.
    9. Jeremy Atack & Matthew S. Jaremski & Peter L. Rousseau, 2014. "Did Railroads Make Antebellum U.S. Banks More Sound?," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 149-178 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Alex Trew, 2008. "Infrastructure Finance and Industrial Takeoff in the United Kingdom," CDMA Working Paper Series 200809, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis.
    11. Frey, Carl Benedikt & Osborne, Michael A., 2017. "The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 254-280.
    12. Hornung, Erik, 2012. "Railroads and Micro-regional Growth in Prussia," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 80, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    13. Nicolas Ziebarth, 2011. "Are China and India Backwards? Evidence from the 19th Century U.S. Census of Manufactures," 2011 Meeting Papers 138, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. Nicolas Ziebarth, 2013. "Are China and India Backwards? Evidence from the 19th Century U.S. Census of Manufactures," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(1), pages 86-99, January.
    15. William J. Collins & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Introduction to "Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective"," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 1-22 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Jaremski, Matthew, 2014. "National Banking's Role in U.S. Industrialization, 1850–1900," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(01), pages 109-140, March.
    17. Donaldson, Dave, 2010. "Railroads of the Raj: estimating the impact of transportation infrastructure," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 38368, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N61 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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