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The Productivity of U.S. States Since 1880

  • Kris James Mitchener
  • Ian W. McLean

This study uses state-level variation in labor productivity levels at twenty-year intervals between 1880 and 1980 to examine the relative importance of institutional and geographical influences in explaining observed and persistent differences in standards of living over time and across regions. Focusing on fundamental rather than proximate influences, we find that both institutional characteristics and some physical geography characteristics account for a high proportion of the differences in state productivity levels: states with navigable waterways, a large minerals endowment, and no slaves in 1860, on average, had higher labor productivity levels throughout the sample period. However, we find little support for two other influences that have previously received attention climate and latitude.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9445.

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Date of creation: Jan 2003
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Publication status: published as Mitchener, Kris James and Ian W. McLean. "The Productivity Of US States Since 1880," Journal of Economic Growth, 2003, v8(1,Mar), 73-114.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9445
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