How Did the United States Become a Net Exporter of Manufactured Goods?

40 Pages Posted: 25 May 2006 Last revised: 10 Jun 2007

See all articles by Douglas A. Irwin

Douglas A. Irwin

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: April 2000


The United States became a net exporter of manufactured goods around 1910 after a dramatic surge in iron and steel exports began in the mid-1890s. This paper argues that natural resource abundance fueled the expansion of iron and steel exports in part by enabling a sharp reduction in the price of U.S. exports relative to other competitors. The commercial exploitation of the Mesabi iron ore range, for example, reduced domestic ore prices by 60 percent in the mid-1890s and was equivalent to nearly 30 years of industry productivity growth in its effect on iron and steel export prices. The results are consistent with Wright's (1990) finding that U.S. manufactured exports were natural resource intensive at this time and have implications for recent work suggesting that resource abundance may be a curse rather than a blessing for economic development.

Suggested Citation

Irwin, Douglas A., How Did the United States Become a Net Exporter of Manufactured Goods? (April 2000). NBER Working Paper No. w7638. Available at SSRN:

Douglas A. Irwin (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

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