IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Unemployment Risk and Compensating Differential in Late-Nineteenth Century New Jersey Manufacturing


  • Susan Averett
  • Howard Bodenhorn
  • Justas Staisiunas


In this paper we test for the existence of compensating differentials for unemployment risk in an era before unemployment insurance. Using information gathered from manufacturing worker surveys conducted during the 1880s in New Jersey, we find that workers who faced higher probabilities of predictable unemployment spells received a small compensating differential. Low-skill laborers and operatives were partially compensated for unemployment risks; skilled craftsmen were not. Although workers were not fully compensated for the unemployment risks they accepted, the results are of interest because most previous writers, dating back to Adam Smith, doubted the existence of compensating differentials in manufacturing. Differentials are typically believed to arise in employments with pronounced seasonal components, such as agriculture and construction.

Suggested Citation

  • Susan Averett & Howard Bodenhorn & Justas Staisiunas, 2003. "Unemployment Risk and Compensating Differential in Late-Nineteenth Century New Jersey Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 9977, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9977
    Note: DAE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James, John A, 1995. "Reconstructing the Pattern of American Unemployment before the First World War," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 62(247), pages 291-311, August.
    2. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2002. "Part-Year Operation In Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing: Evidence From The 1870 And 1880 Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(03), pages 792-809, September.
    3. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2003. "Productivity in manufacturing and the length of the working day: evidence from the 1880 census of manufactures," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 170-194, April.
    4. Price V. Fishback, 1998. "Operations of "Unfettered" Labor Markets: Exit and Voice in American Labor Markets at the Turn of the Century," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 722-765, June.
    5. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1991. "Unemployment, employment contracts, and compensating wage differentials: michigan in the 1890s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(03), pages 605-632, September.
    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. Finnoff, David & Tschirhart, John, 2008. "Linking dynamic economic and ecological general equilibrium models," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 91-114, May.
    2. Howard Bodenhorn, 2016. "Two Centuries of Finance and Growth in the United States, 1790-1980," Working Papers id:11352, eSocialSciences.
    3. World Bank Group, 2014. "Balancing Flexibility and Worker Protection," World Bank Other Operational Studies 23024, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

    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:9977. 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.