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Land, Labor and the Wage-Rental Ratio: Factor Price Convergence in the Late Nineteenth Century

Kevin O'Rourke, Alan M. Taylor, Jeffrey G. Williamsmn

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 46
Issued in November 1996
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

This paper augments the new historical literature on factor price convergence. The focus is on the late nineteenth century, when economic convergence among the current OECD countries was dramatic; and the focus is on the convergence between Old World and New, by far the biggest participants in the global convergence during the period; and the focus is on land and labor, the two most important factors of production in the nineteenth century. Wage-rental ratios boomed in the Old World and collapsed in the New, moving the resource-rich and labor scarce New World closer to the resource-scarce and labor-abundant Old World. The paper uses both computable general equilibrium models and econometrics to identify the forces causing the convergence. These include: commodity price convergence and the Heckscher-Ohlin Theorem of factor price equalization; migration, capital-deepening and frontier disappearance, factors stressed by Malthus, Ricardo, Wicksell and Viner; and factor-saving biases associated with induced-innovational theory, an endogenous response to relative factor scarcities.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0046

Published: "Factor Price Convergence in the Late 19th Century," International Economic Review,, vol. 37., no. 3, pp, 499-530, August 1996.

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