IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

How Did the United States Become a Net Exporter of Manufactured Goods?


  • Douglas A. Irwin


The United States became a net exporter of manufactured goods around 1910 after a dramatic surge in iron and steel exports began in the mid-1890s. This paper argues that natural resource abundance fueled the expansion of iron and steel exports in part by enabling a sharp reduction in the price of U.S. exports relative to other competitors. The commercial exploitation of the Mesabi iron ore range, for example, reduced domestic ore prices by 60 percent in the mid-1890s and was equivalent to nearly 30 years of industry productivity growth in its effect on iron and steel export prices. The results are consistent with Wright's (1990) finding that U.S. manufactured exports were natural resource intensive at this time and have implications for recent work suggesting that resource abundance may be a curse rather than a blessing for economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas A. Irwin, 2000. "How Did the United States Become a Net Exporter of Manufactured Goods?," NBER Working Papers 7638, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7638
    Note: DAE ITI

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Parsons, Donald O & Ray, Edward John, 1975. "The United States Steel Consolidation: The Creation of Market Control," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 181-219, April.
    2. Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew M. Warner, 1995. "Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 5398, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, April.
    4. Reinert, Kenneth A. & Roland-Holst, David W., 1992. "Armington elasticities for United States manufacturing sectors," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 631-639, October.
    5. Irwin, Douglas A & Kroszner, Randall S, 1999. "Interests, Institutions, and Ideology in Securing Policy Change: The Republican Conversion to Trade Liberalization after Smoot-Hawley," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 42(2), pages 643-673, October.
    6. Anderson, Kym, 1998. "Are resource-abundant economies disadvantaged?," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 42(1), March.
    7. Head, Keith, 1994. "Infant industry protection in the steel rail industry," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(3-4), pages 141-165, November.
    8. Robert E. Lipsey, 1963. "Price and Quantity Trends in the Foreign Trade of the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number lips63-1, April.
    9. Mikesell, Raymond F, 1997. "Explaining the resource curse, with special reference to mineral-exporting countries," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 191-199, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Ronald W. Jones & Ronald Findlay, 2001. "Input Trade and the Location of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 29-33, May.
    2. Ian W. McLean & Alan M. Taylor, 2001. "Australian Growth: A California Perspective," NBER Working Papers 8408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. W.F. Maloney, 2002. "Innovation and Growth in Resource Rich Countries," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 148, Central Bank of Chile.
    4. William F. Maloney, 2002. "Missed Opportunities: Innovation and Resource-Based Growth in Latin America," ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, ECONOMIA JOURNAL OF THE LATIN AMERICAN AND CARIBBEAN ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION, vol. 0(Fall 2002), pages 111-168, August.
    5. Lederman, Daniel & Maloney, William F., 2003. "Trade structure and growth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3025, The World Bank.
    6. Eromenko, Igor & Lisenkova, Katerina, 2006. "Impact of joining the WTO on Ukrainian ferrous metallurgy: subsidies vs. antidumping, is there really a trade-off?," MPRA Paper 67477, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Daniel Lederman & William F. Maloney, 2012. "Does What You Export Matter? In Search of Empirical Guidance for Industrial Policies," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 9371, March.
    8. Barry Eichengreen & Michael D. Bordo, 2003. "Crises now and then: what lessons from the last era of financial globalization?," Chapters,in: Monetary History, Exchange Rates and Financial Markets, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. Douglas A. Irwin, 2000. "Ohlin Versus Stolper-Samuelson?," NBER Working Papers 7641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F10 - International Economics - - Trade - - - General
    • N71 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:7638. 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: .

    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.