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Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development

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Listed:
  • Alan L. Olmstead
  • Paul W. Rhode

Abstract

Between 1800 and 1860, the United States became the preeminent world supplier of cotton as output increased sixty-fold. Technological changes, including the introduction of improved cotton varieties, contributed significantly to this growth. Measured output per worker in the cotton sector rose four-fold and large regional differences emerged. By 1840, output per worker in the New South was twice that in the Old South. The economy-wide increase is explained, in equal measure, by growth in output per worker at fixed locations and by the reallocation of labor across regions. These results offer a new view on the dynamics of economic development in antebellum America.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2010. "Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development," NBER Working Papers 16494, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16494
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Metzer, Jacob, 1975. "Rational management, modern business practices, and economies of scale in the ante-bellum southern plantations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 123-150, April.
    2. Pritchett, Jonathan B., 2001. "Quantitative Estimates Of The United States Interregional Slave Trade, 1820 1860," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(02), pages 467-475, June.
    3. Wright, Gavin, 1979. "The Efficiency of Slavery: Another Interpretation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(1), pages 219-226, March.
    4. Olmstead,Alan L. & Rhode,Paul W., 2008. "Creating Abundance," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521857116.
    5. Thomas Weiss, 1987. "The Farm Labor Force by Region, 1820-1860: Revised Estimates and Implications for Growth," NBER Working Papers 2438, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2008. "Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(04), pages 1123-1171, December.
    7. Fogel, Robert W & Engerman, Stanley L, 1977. "Explaining the Relative Efficiency of Slave Agriculture in the Antebellum South," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 275-296, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives

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