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Expansion of Public Libraries in the United States, 1870-1930

25 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2008  

Michael Kevane

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

William A. Sundstrom

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

Date Written: May 10, 2006

Abstract

The period 1870-1930 witnessed the emergence of the local public library as a widespread and enduring American institution. In this paper we document the expansion of public libraries in the United States over these years, using data drawn from library surveys conducted by the federal Bureau of Education, and review some causal accounts for that expansion. Exploiting cross-state and temporal variation in the data, we estimate panel regressions to assess plausible demand and supply factors affecting the pace of library development. We consider a number of the social and economic variables that have been found to correlate with the development of educational institutions, including income, urbanization, and ethnic composition, as well as average levels of education and literacy themselves. We also examine the effect of supply-side factors that were specific to public libraries, such as state library commissions and associations.

Suggested Citation

Kevane, Michael and Sundstrom, William A., Expansion of Public Libraries in the United States, 1870-1930 (May 10, 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1104046 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1104046

Michael Kevane

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States

William A. Sundstrom

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408-554-4341 (Phone)
408-554-2331 (Fax)

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