Explaining the Rise in Antebellum Pauperism: New Evidence

34 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2007

See all articles by L. Lynne Kiesling

L. Lynne Kiesling

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Engineering and Public Policy

Robert A. Margo

Boston University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 1996

Abstract

The 1850s witnessed one of the earliest American history. During the decade the proportion of individuals receiving public assistance -- increased from 5.8 in 1850 to 10.2 in 1860, an increase of 76 percent. Previous attempts to explain the increase in antebellum pauperism have been hampered by the available published data, which are too aggregated to be of much use. This paper explores the determinants of antebellum pauperism using previously unexploited archival data drawn from the manuscript censuses of social statistics. These records provided detailed evidence on the incidence of pauperism at the county level. We find that about half of the increase in pauperism can be attributed to falling real wages during the decade. Contributing factors were increased immigration and urbanization.

Suggested Citation

Kiesling, L. Lynne and Margo, Robert A., Explaining the Rise in Antebellum Pauperism: New Evidence (September 1996). NBER Working Paper No. h0092. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=225056

L. Lynne Kiesling

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Engineering and Public Policy ( email )

Baker Hall 129
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
United States

Robert A. Margo (Contact Author)

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-353-6819 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
23
Abstract Views
676
PlumX Metrics