NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Publications by Elyce Rotella

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Working Papers and Chapters

July 1992The Savings of Ordinary Americans: The Philidelphia Saving Fund Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
with George Alter, Claudia Goldin: w4126
We explore the savings behavior and saving rates of ordinary Americans through their accounts at the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society. the oldest mutual savings bank in the United States founded in 1816 to encourage thrift among the working poor. Our sample contains the 2.374 accounts opened in 1850. of which one-quarter were linked to the 1850 census manuscripts. Savings accounts were generally brief affairs; only 30 percent lasted more than 5 years. But median balances mounted to about three-quarters of annual income in about three to four years. Deposits and withdrawals were infrequent. but substantial. The median deposit was about 1 to 2 months of gross income whereas the median withdrawal represented about 2 to 3 months but occurred far less often. Account holders. then. did not gener...

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