The Labor Force in the Nineteenth Century

65 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2007 Last revised: 23 Oct 2010

See all articles by Robert A. Margo

Robert A. Margo

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

Date Written: September 1992


This paper surveys recent research on the labor force in the nineteenth century. I examine trends in the aggregate size, demographic, occupational and industrial composition of the labor force; short-run and long-run movements in nominal and real wages; hours of work; the development of the factory system; the growth of unions; and government regulation of labor markets, specifically protectionist legislation. Although my survey is deliberately broad in scope, there is an underlying emphasis on those aspects of change that had a direct bearing on the evolution of the labor force in the twentieth century. In keeping with this theme, the paper concludes with a brief comparison of labor markets at the turn of the century with labor markets today.

Suggested Citation

Margo, Robert A., The Labor Force in the Nineteenth Century (September 1992). NBER Working Paper No. h0040. Available at SSRN:

Robert A. Margo (Contact Author)

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