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Portage: Path Dependence and Increasing Returns in U.S. History

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  • Hoyt Bleakley
  • Jeffrey Lin

Abstract

We examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphologic feature in the southeastern U.S. marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Historically, waterborne transport of goods required portage around the falls at these points, while some falls provided water power during early industrialization. These factors attracted commerce and manufacturing. Although these original advantages have long since been made obsolete, we document the continuing--and even increasing--importance of these portage sites over time. We interpret this finding in a model with path dependence arising from local increasing returns to scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoyt Bleakley & Jeffrey Lin, 2010. "Portage: Path Dependence and Increasing Returns in U.S. History," NBER Working Papers 16314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16314
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    1. Esteban Rossi-Hansberg & Mark L. J. Wright, 2007. "Urban Structure and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(2), pages 597-624.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gabriel M. Ahlfeldt & Stephen J. Redding & Daniel M. Sturm & Nikolaus Wolf, 2015. "The Economics of Density: Evidence From the Berlin Wall," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 83, pages 2127-2189, November.
    2. Hallegatte, Stephane & Shah, Ankur & Lempert, Robert & Brown, Casey & Gill, Stuart, 2012. "Investment decision making under deep uncertainty -- application to climate change," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6193, The World Bank.
    3. Sarvimäki, Matti, 2011. "Agglomeration in the periphery," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 57857, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    4. Rafael Gonz�lez-Val & Jose Olmo, 2015. "Growth in a Cross-section of Cities: Location, Increasing Returns or Random Growth?," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 230-261, June.
    5. William R. Kerr & Scott Duke Kominers, 2015. "Agglomerative Forces and Cluster Shapes," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(4), pages 877-899, October.
    6. Bosker, Maarten & Buringh, Eltjo, 2017. "City seeds: Geography and the origins of the European city system," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 139-157.
    7. Redding, Stephen J. & Turner, Matthew A., 2015. "Transportation Costs and the Spatial Organization of Economic Activity," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, in: Gilles Duranton & J. V. Henderson & William C. Strange (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 5, chapter 0, pages 1339-1398, Elsevier.
    8. Jeffrey Lin, 2012. "Geography, history, economies of density, and the location of cities," Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, issue Q3, pages 18-24.
    9. Klaus Desmet & Esteban Rossi-Hansberg, 2013. "Urban Accounting and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2296-2327, October.
    10. W. Walker Hanlon, 2014. "Temporary Shocks and Persistent Effects in the Urban System: Evidence from British Cities after the U.S. Civil War," NBER Working Papers 20471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Amanda Ross & Shawn Rohlin, 2013. "State Bankruptcy Law and Entrepreneurship: Evidence from a Border Analysis," ERSA conference papers ersa13p253, European Regional Science Association.
    12. Rafael González-Val & Jose Olmo, 2015. "Growth in a Cross-section of Cities: Location, Increasing Returns or Random Growth?," Spatial Economic Analysis, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 230-261, June.
    13. Edward L. Glaeser, 2012. "Urban Public Finance," NBER Working Papers 18244, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N9 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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    1. Historical Economic Geography

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