IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/19213.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Railroads and American Economic Growth: A "Market Access" Approach

Author

Listed:
  • Dave Donaldson
  • Richard Hornbeck

Abstract

This paper examines the historical impact of railroads on the American economy. Expansion of the railroad network may have affected all counties directly or indirectly - an econometric challenge that arises in many empirical settings. However, the total impact on each county is captured by changes in that county's "market access," a reduced-form expression derived from general equilibrium trade theory. We measure counties' market access by constructing a network database of railroads and waterways and calculating lowest-cost county-to-county freight routes. As the railroad network expanded from 1870 to 1890, changes in market access were capitalized into county agricultural land values with an estimated elasticity of 1.1. County-level declines in market access associated with removing all railroads in 1890 are estimated to decrease the total value of US agricultural land by 64%. Feasible extensions to internal waterways or improvements in country roads would have mitigated 13% or 20% of the losses from removing railroads.

Suggested Citation

  • Dave Donaldson & Richard Hornbeck, 2013. "Railroads and American Economic Growth: A "Market Access" Approach," NBER Working Papers 19213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19213 Note: DAE DEV EFG ITI
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19213.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Francesco Caselli & Wilbur John Coleman, 2001. "Cross-Country Technology Diffusion: The Case of Computers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 328-335, May.
    2. James E. Anderson & Eric van Wincoop, 2003. "Gravity with Gravitas: A Solution to the Border Puzzle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 170-192, March.
    3. Simonovska, Ina & Waugh, Michael E., 2014. "The elasticity of trade: Estimates and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 34-50.
    4. Richard Hornbeck, 2010. "Barbed Wire: Property Rights and Agricultural Development," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(2), pages 767-810.
    5. Pierre-Philippe Combes & Thierry Mayer & Jacques-François Thisse, 2008. "Economic Geography: The Integration of Regions and Nations," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-00311000, HAL.
    6. Berthold Herrendorf & James A. Schmitz & Arilton Teixeira, 2009. "Transportation and development: insights from the U.S., 1840-1860," Staff Report 425, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. 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.
    8. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/c8dmi8nm4pdjkuc9g8mb6c01j is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Keith Head & Thierry Mayer, 2011. "Gravity, market potential and economic development," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 281-294, March.
    10. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Michael Haines & Robert A. Margo, 2009. "Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-60," NBER Working Papers 14640, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Simonovska, Ina & Waugh, Michael E., 2014. "The elasticity of trade: Estimates and evidence," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 34-50.
    12. Atack, Jeremy & Margo, Robert, 2011. "The Impact of Access to Rail Transportation on Agricultural Improvement: The American Midwest as a Test Case, 1850-1860," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 4(2), pages 5-18.
    13. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther & Qian, Nancy, 2012. "On the Road: Access to Transportation Infrastructure and Economic Growth in China," CEPR Discussion Papers 8874, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    14. Guy Michaels, 2008. "The Effect of Trade on the Demand for Skill: Evidence from the Interstate Highway System," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 683-701, November.
    15. H. Hanson, Gordon, 2005. "Market potential, increasing returns and geographic concentration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 1-24.
    16. Keith Head & Thierry Mayer, 2011. "Gravity, market potential and development," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/c8dmi8nm4pd, Sciences Po.
    17. Leunig, Timothy, 2006. "Time is Money: A Re-Assessment of the Passenger Social Savings from Victorian British Railways," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 635-673, September.
    18. 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.
    19. H. Hanson, Gordon, 2005. "Market potential, increasing returns and geographic concentration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 1-24.
    20. Fogel, Robert William, 1979. "Notes on the Social Saving Controversy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(01), pages 1-54, March.
    21. Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2004. "Worms: Identifying Impacts on Education and Health in the Presence of Treatment Externalities," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 159-217, January.
    22. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805.
    23. Simonovska, Ina; Waugh, Michael E., 2010. "The Elasticity of Trade: Estimates & Evidence," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 13, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    24. Jonathan Eaton & Samuel S. Kortum & Sebastian Sotelo, 2012. "International Trade: Linking Micro and Macro," NBER Working Papers 17864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    25. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
    26. Atack, Jeremy, 2013. "On the Use of Geographic Information Systems in Economic History: The American Transportation Revolution Revisited," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(02), pages 313-338, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • N01 - Economic History - - General - - - Development of the Discipline: Historiographical; Sources and Methods
    • N51 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19213. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.