NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth and Politics in New York, 1791-1826

Eric Hilt, Jacqueline Valentine

NBER Working Paper No. 17147
Issued in June 2011
NBER Program(s):   DAE   LE

This paper analyzes the early history of corporate shareholding, and its relationship with political change. In the late eighteenth century, corporations were extremely rare and were dominated by elites, but in the early nineteenth century, after American politics became significantly more democratic, corporations proliferated rapidly. Using newly collected data, this paper compares the wealth and status of New York City households who owned corporate stock to the general population there both in 1791, when there were only two corporations in the state, and in 1826, when there were hundreds. The results indicate that although corporate stock was held principally by the city’s elite merchants in both periods, share ownership became more widespread over time among less affluent households. In particular, the corporations created in the 1820s were owned and managed by investors who were less wealthy than the stockholders of corporations created in earlier, less democratic periods in the state’s history.

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Published: Hilt, Eric & Valentine, Jacqueline, 2012. "Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth, and Politics in New York, 1791–1826," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 332-363, June.

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