Capital Flows to the New World as an Intergenerational Transfer

Alan M. Taylor, Jeffrey G. Williamson

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 32
Issued in December 1991
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

Why did international capital flows rise to such heights in the late 19th century, the years between 1907 and 1913 in particular? Britain placed half of her annual savings abroad during those seven years, and 76 percent of it went to the New World countries of Canada, Australia, the USA, Argentina and the rest of Latin America. The resource abundant New World was endowed with dual scarcity, labor and capital. The labor supply response to labor scarcity took the form of both immigration and high fertility. This served to create much higher child dependency burdens in the New World than in the Old. Econometric analysis shows that these dependency burdens served to choke off domestic savings in the New World, thus creating an external demand for savings. The influence was very large. Indeed, it appears that the vast majority of those international capital flows from Old World to New can be explained by those dependency rate gaps. As a consequence, it is appropriate to view those large international capital flows as an intergenerational transfer.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0032

Published: Journal of Political Economy, Volume 102, No.2 (April 1994), pp.348-71

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