NBER Working Papers by Daniel Raff

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Working Papers

June 2002Beyond Markets and Hierarchies: Toward a New Synthesis of American Business History
with Naomi R. Lamoreaux, Peter Temin: w9029
We sketch a new synthesis of American business history to replace (and subsume) that put forward by Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., most famously in his book The Visible Hand (1977). We see the broader subject as the history of the institutions of coordination in the economy, with the management of information and the addressing of problems of informational asymmetries representing central problems for firm- and relationship design. Our analysis emphasizes the endogenous adoption of coordination mechanisms in the context of evolving but specific operating conditions and opportunities. This naturally gives rise both to change and to heterogeneity in the population of coordination mechanisms to be observed in use at any moment in time. In discussing the changes in the population of mechanisms o...

Published: Lamoreaux, Naomi R., Daniel M. G. Raff, and Peter Temin. “Beyond Markets and Hierarchies: Towards a New Synthesis of American Business History." American Historical Review 108 (April 2003): 404-33.

June 1997Sears Roebuck in the Twentieth Century: Competition, Complementarities, and the Problem of Wasting Assets
with Peter Temin: h0102
Sears Roebuck and Co. faced similar challenges in the 1920s and the 1980s. On the strength of the early period's strategic investment decisions, the company grew into the nation's largest retailer and a pervasive factor in the economy. In the later period, unanswered challenges nearly destroyed the company. We analyze the elements that contributed to the success in the 1920s and to the near disaster in the 1980s and place them in a broader and more systematic context. We argue that successful innovations combine a focus on an attractive market with an exploitation and even enhancement of a firm's existing competitive strengths.


February 1995Quality-Adjusted Prices for the American Automobile Industry: 1906-1940
with Manuel Trajtenberg: w5035
We push the span of hedonic price calculations for automobiles backwards towards the industry's birth. Most of the real change that occurred between 1906 and 1982 occurred between 1906 and 1940. During these years, hedonic prices fell at an average annual rate of 5%. The pace was brisker still during the first 8-12 years. Our measured declines can be decomposed into price and quality components. Our calculations suggest that 60% of the overall decline 1906-1940 was due to process innovation and only 40% to product innovation or quality change per se. Regressors representing mechanical systems matter in these calculations.


December 1986Did Henry Ford Pay Efficiency Wages?
with Lawrence H. Summers: w2101
This paper examines Henry Ford's introduction of the five-dollar day in 1914 in an effort to evaluate the relevance of efficiency wage theories of wage and employment determination. Our general conclusion is that the Ford experience is strongly supportive of the relevance of these theories. Ford's decision to dramatically increase wages is most plausibly portrayed as the consequence of labor problems of the kind stressed by efficiency wage theorists. The structure of the five dollar day program is consistent with the predictions of efficiency wage theories. There is vivid evidence that the five-dollar day resulted in substantial queues for Ford jobs. Finally, significant increases in productivity and profits at Ford accompanied the introduction of the five-dollar day.

Published: Journal of Labor Economics, Vol.5, No. 4, Pt. 2, pp. S57-S86, (October 1987). citation courtesy of

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