The Long-Run Effects of Market Access Shocks from U.S. Railroad Network Expansions

33 Pages Posted: 17 Mar 2022 Last revised: 22 Apr 2022

See all articles by Jeff Chan

Jeff Chan

Wilfrid Laurier University

Date Written: March 2, 2022


This paper examines whether increased market access driven by railroad network expansions had long-run effects on those living in affected areas during their early life. I make use of linked complete count U.S. Censuses to follow individuals who were children in 1900 and trace through short-run changes to outcomes such as literacy and family circumstances by 1910, as well as longer-run outcomes such as income and occupation in 1940. I incorporate an instrumental variable strategy based on improvements to distant segments of the railroad network and constant, pre-period county populations to help isolate the causal effect of market access. I find that, in the short run, children are less likely to be literate and their mothers are more likely to have more children. In the long-run, these children then become less likely to be well-educated and earn less income by 1940. The results of this paper shed light on the mechanisms through which market access and railroads can impact individuals from childhood to later life.

Keywords: linked census, market access, railroads, United States

JEL Classification: F14, J24, N31, O18

Suggested Citation

Chan, Jeff, The Long-Run Effects of Market Access Shocks from U.S. Railroad Network Expansions (March 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Jeff Chan (Contact Author)

Wilfrid Laurier University ( email )

75 University Avenue West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C5

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics