The Democratization of Invention During Early Industrialization: Evidence from the United States, 1790-1846
37 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2007 Last revised: 14 Jul 2021
Date Written: December 1989
We employ the 1860 Census of Manufactures to study rural antebellum manufacturing in the South and Midwest, and find that manufacturing output per capita was similar across regions in counties specialized in the same agricultural products. The southern deficit in manufactures per capita appears to have been largely attributable to the very low levels of output in counties specialized in cotton production. This implies that it was the South's capabilities for the highly profitable cotton production, not the existence of slavery per se, that was responsible for the region's limited industrial development -- at least in rural areas. The other major finding is that in both the South and the Midwest measured total factor productivity was significantly lower in counties specialized in wheat (the most seasonal of agricultural products as regards labor requirements). This is consistent with suggestions that agricultural districts where the predominant crops were highly seasonal in their requirements for labor were well suited to support manufacturing enterprise during the offpeak periods.
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