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Freight Rates and Productivity Gains in British Tramp Shipping 1869-1950

  • Saif I. Shah Mohammed
  • Jeffrey G. Williamson

The standard source for pre-WWII global freight rate trends is the Isserlis British tramp shipping index. We think it is flawed, and that its sources offer vastly more information than the Isserlis aggregate contains. The new data confirm the precipitous decline in nominal freight rates before the World War I, but it also extends the series to the 1940s. Furthermore, our new series is linked to the post-World War II era (documented by David Hummels), so that we can be more precise about what has happened over the very long run. We also create route-specific deflators by using the prices of commodities transported. Previous scholars have deflated their nominal freight rate indices by a price index that includes tradables not carried on all routes and non-tradables not carried on any route. Our deflated indices offer a more effective measure of the contribution of declining freight rates to commodity-price convergence across trading regions. Using the pricedual method and new indices for factor prices, we then calculate total factor productivity growth pre-war and interwar for five global routes. Finally, we identify the sources of the total factor productivity growth.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9531.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9531.

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Date of creation: Mar 2003
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Publication status: published as Mohammed, Saif I. and Jeffrey G. Williamson. "Freight Rates And Productivity Gains In British Tramp Shipping 1869-1950," Explorations in Economic History, 2004, v41(2,Apr), 172-203.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9531
Note: DAE ITI PR
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  1. Harley, C.K., 1988. "Ocean Freight Rates And Productivity, 1740-1913: The Primacy Of Mechanical Invention Reaffirmed," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 8802, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
  2. Henning, Graydon R. & Trace, Keith, 1975. "Britain and the Motorship: A Case of the Delayed Adoption of New Technology?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 35(02), pages 353-385, June.
  3. Kevin H. O'Rourke & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2001. "Globalization and History: The Evolution of a Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Economy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262650592, June.
  4. Douglass C. North, 1968. "Sources of Productivity Change in Ocean Shipping, 1600-1850," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 953.
  5. Harley, C. K., 1973. "On the Persistence of Old Techniques: The Case of North American Wooden Shipbuilding," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(02), pages 372-398, June.
  6. John H. Coatsworth & Jeffrey G. Williamson, 2002. "The Roots of Latin American Protectionism: Looking Before the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 8999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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