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Railroads, Reallocation, and the Rise of American Manufacturing

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  • Richard Hornbeck
  • Martin Rotemberg

Abstract

We examine impacts of market integration on the development of American manufacturing, as railroads expanded through the latter half of the 19th century. Using new county-by-industry data from the Census of Manufactures, we estimate substantial impacts on manufacturing productivity from relative increases in county market access as railroads expanded. In particular, the railroads increased economic activity in marginally productive counties. Allowing for the presence of factor misallocation generates much larger aggregate economic gains from the railroads than previous estimates. Our estimates highlight how broadly-used infrastructure or technologies can have much larger economic impacts when there are inefficiencies in the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Hornbeck & Martin Rotemberg, 2019. "Railroads, Reallocation, and the Rise of American Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 26594, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26594
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    1. Taylor Jaworski & Carl T. Kitchens, 2019. "National Policy for Regional Development: Historical Evidence from Appalachian Highways," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 101(5), pages 777-790, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D24 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Production; Cost; Capital; Capital, Total Factor, and Multifactor Productivity; Capacity
    • 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
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics

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