NBER Working Papers by Peter Mancall

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Working Papers

September 2008Commodity Exports, Invisible Exports and Terms of Trade for the Middle Colonies, 1720 to 1775
with Joshua Rosenbloom, Thomas J. Weiss: w14334
Economic historians of the eighteenth-century British mainland North American colonies have given considerable weight to the role of exports as a stimulus for economic growth. Yet their analyses have been handicapped by reliance on one or two time series to serve as indicators of broader changes rather than considering the export sector as a whole. Here we present new comprehensive export measures for the middle colonies. We find that aggregate exports in constant prices grew very quickly, but barely faster than population during the period under consideration. Furthermore, improvements in the terms of trade increased the colonists’ ability to buy imports over time, especially after 1740. Although the export sector performed well, it constituted a relatively small part of the region’s...
June 2000Conjectural Estimates of Economic Growth in the Lower South, 1720 to 1800
with Joshua L. Rosenbloom, Thomas Weiss: h0126
This paper describes the first step in a larger project to build up regional estimates of economic growth before 1800 in the parts of North America that became the United States. In it we employ the method of conjectural estimation to develop new estimates of the rate of economic growth in the Lower South (modern day North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee) from 1720 to 1800 for both colonists and the Native American population of the region. Contrary to the widely held view that GDP per capita grew at a rate of 0.3 to 0.6 percent per year during the eighteenth century our best estimate is that per capita GDP grew at just 0.09 percent per year. Despite the slow growth of GDP per capita, however, the region's economy did achieve appreciable extensive growth, and achieving ...
March 2000South Carolina Slave Prices, 1722-1809
with Joshua L. Rosenbloom, Thomas Weiss: h0123
Based on data from several samples of probate inventories we construct and analyze a time series of slave prices for South Carolina from 1722 to 1809. These estimates reveal that prices fluctuated without trend prior to the 1760s and then began to rise rapidly, more than doubling by the early nineteenth century. Estimates of supply and demand functions indicate that while long-run slave supply was highly elastic, the short-run supply function was quite inelastic. Our analysis of the slave price series indicates that the price of rice was the major determinant of the demand for slaves and in turn largely explains the rise in slave prices. These findings have important implications for the interpretation of evidence on rising yields in rice production over the eighteenth century and the ...
January 2000Slave Prices in the Lower South, 1722-1815
with Joshua L. Rosenbloom, Thomas Weiss: h0120
Using data from samples of probate inventories we construct a series of slave prices for Low Country South Carolina and Georgia covering the period 1722-1815. Using these data we examine variations in slave prices by age and sex, as well as geographic variations between and within the two colonies/states. Nominal slave prices more than doubled between 1722/29 and 1810/15. In real terms, however, there was essentially no change in slave prices deflated either by a general consumer price index, or the price of rice. Low Country slave prices were well above those in the West Indies and Maryland prior to the 1740s, but were converging toward the level of prices in these regions. After 1740 the three series moved roughly in parallel.

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