Labor Productivity in the Us and the UK During the 19th Century

39 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2004

See all articles by Stephen N. Broadberry

Stephen N. Broadberry

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE)

Douglas A. Irwin

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

Date Written: September 2004

Abstract

A number of writers have recently questioned whether labor productivity or per capita incomes were ever higher in the United Kingdom than in the United States. We show that although the United States already had a substantial labor productivity lead in industry as early as 1840, especially in manufacturing, labor productivity was broadly equal in the two countries in agriculture, while the United Kingdom was ahead in services. Hence aggregate labor productivity was higher in the United Kingdom, particularly since the United States had a larger share of the labor force in low value-added agriculture. US overtaking occurred decisively only during the 1890s, as labor productivity pulled ahead in services and the share of agricultural employment declined substantially. The share of the population in the labor force was lower in the United States, so that the United Kingdom's labor productivity advantage in the mid-nineteenth century translated into a larger per capita income lead.

Keywords: Labor productivity, sectoral disaggregation, per capita income, international comparison

JEL Classification: N10, N30, O47, O57

Suggested Citation

Broadberry, Stephen N. and Irwin, Douglas A., Labor Productivity in the Us and the UK During the 19th Century (September 2004). CEPR Discussion Paper No. 4596. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=608986

Stephen N. Broadberry (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

+44 0 24 7652 3446 (Phone)
+44 0 24 7652 3032 (Fax)

Douglas A. Irwin

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

6106 Rockefeller Hall
Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2942 (Phone)
603-646-2122 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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