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Engines of Growth: Farm Tractors and Twentieth-Century U.S. Economic Welfare

  • Richard H. Steckel
  • William J. White

The role of twentieth-century agricultural mechanization in changing the productivity, employment opportunities, and appearance of rural America has long been appreciated. Less attention has been paid to the impact made by farm tractors, combines, and associated equipment on the standard of living of the U.S. population as a whole. This paper demonstrates, through use of a detailed counterfactual analysis, that mechanization in the production of farm products increased GDP by more than 8.0 percent, using 1954 as a base year. This result suggests that studying individual innovations can significantly increase our understanding of the nature of economic growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17879.

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Date of creation: Mar 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17879
Note: DAE PR
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  1. Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2001. "Reshaping The Landscape: The Impact And Diffusion Of The Tractor In American Agriculture, 1910 1960," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(03), pages 663-698, September.
  2. Summerhill, William R., 1996. "Railroads and the Brazilian Economy Before 1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(02), pages 464-467, June.
  3. Andrew Schmitz & David Seckler, 1970. "Mechanized Agriculture and Social Welfare: The Case of the Tomato Harvester," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 52(4), pages 569-577.
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