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Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures

Author

Listed:
  • Jeremy Atack

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)

  • Fred Bateman
  • Robert A. Margo

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University)

Abstract

We use data from the manuscript census of manufacturing to estimate the effects of the length of the working day on output and wages. We find that the elasticity of output with respect to daily hours was positive but less than one - that is, there were diminishing returns to increases in hours. Holding constant annual days of work, the average annual wage was positively related to daily hours but, again, the elasticity was less than one. At the modal value of daily hours - ten hours per day - it appears that, from the standpoint of employers, the marginal benefits of a shorter working day - a lower wage bill - were approximately offset by the marginal cost - lower output.

Suggested Citation

  • Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Productivity in Manufacturing and the Length of the Working Day: Evidence from the 1880 Census of Manufactures," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0045, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0045
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1970. "Capacity, Overtime, and Empirical Production Functions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(2), pages 23-27, May.
    2. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman & Robert A. Margo, 2000. "Rising Wage Dispersion Across American Manufacturing Establishments, 1850-1880," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0036, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    3. 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.
    4. Costa, Dora L, 2000. "The Wage and the Length of the Work Day: From the 1890s to 1991," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(1), pages 156-181, January.
    5. Goldin, Claudia, 1988. "Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment: A Reassessment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 189-205, February.
    6. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred, 1992. "How Long Was the Workday in 1880?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(01), pages 129-160, March.
    7. Goldin, Claudia & Sokoloff, Kenneth, 1982. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(04), pages 741-774, December.
    8. Kenneth L. Sokoloff, 1984. "Was the Transition from the Artisanal Shop to the Factory Associated with Gains in Efficiency?: Evidence from the U.S. Manufacturing Censuses of 1820 and 1850," UCLA Economics Working Papers 300, UCLA Department of Economics.
    9. Bernanke, Ben S, 1986. "Employment, Hours, and Earnings in the Depression: An Analysis of EightManufacturing Industries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 82-109, March.
    10. Jeremy Atack & Fred Bateman, 1991. "Whom Did Protective Legislation Protect? Evidence From 1880," NBER Historical Working Papers 0033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Moehling, Carolyn M., 1999. "State Child Labor Laws and the Decline of Child Labor," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 72-106, January.
    12. Whaples, Robert, 1990. "Winning the Eight-Hour Day, 1909–1919," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 50(02), pages 393-406, June.
    13. Atack, Jeremy, 1977. "Returns to scale in antebellum United States manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 337-359, November.
    14. Landes, William M. & Solmon, Lewis C., 1972. "Compulsory Schooling Legislation: An Economic Analysis of Law and Social Change in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(01), pages 54-91, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2008. "Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 185-198, April.
    2. 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.
    3. Joyce Burnette, 2011. "The Emergence of Wage Discrimination in U.S. Manufacturing," Working Papers 11-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    4. Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Economies of Scale in Nineteenth-Century American Manufacturing Revisited: A Resolution of the Entrepreneurial Labor Input Problem," NBER Chapters,in: Enterprising America: Businesses, Banks, and Credit Markets in Historical Perspective, pages 215-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Díaz, Antonia & Echevarria, Cristina, 2009. "Why a fixed workweek?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 790-798, October.
    6. Kim, Sukkoo, 2005. "Industrialization and urbanization: Did the steam engine contribute to the growth of cities in the United States?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 586-598, October.
    7. Domenech, Jordi, 2007. "Working hours in the European periphery: The length of the working day in Spain, 1885-1920," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 469-486, July.
    8. Sukkoo Kim, 2005. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 11206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Murray, John E. & Keith, Kristen, 2004. "Male-female earnings differentials in early 20th century Manila," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 361-376, October.
    10. Lonnie Golden, 2009. "A Brief History of Long Work Time and the Contemporary Sources of Overwork," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 84(2), pages 217-227, January.
    11. Huberman, Michael & Minns, Chris, 2007. "The times they are not changin': Days and hours of work in Old and New Worlds, 1870-2000," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 538-567, October.
    12. Michael Huberman, 2002. "Working Hours of the World Unite? New International Evidence on Worktime, 1870-1900," CIRANO Working Papers 2002s-77, CIRANO.
    13. Kim, Sukkoo, 2004. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," Institute of European Studies, Working Paper Series qt4hd75171, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley.

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