NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Household Migration, Urban Growth, and Industrialization: The United States, 1850-1860

Richard H. Steckel

NBER Working Paper No. 2281
Issued in June 1987
NBER Program(s):   DAE

This paper utilizes a national sample of nearly 1,600 households linked in the census manuscript schedules to investigate causes and consequences of migration to urban areas during the midst of America's industrial revolution. Although record linkage was limited to the subset of households that had at least one child in 1850, the data are relatively rich in socioeconomic information. A regional analysis of migration and occupational change shows that while established households were generally mobile, they were extraordinarily reluctant to commit labor to urban- industrial pursuits. The evidence suggests that the presence of children, retraining costs, lack of control over fertility, risk aversion, and an unfavorable view of urban areas by rural residents contributed to their avoidance of cities and towns. The findings also contribute to debates over the compression of the wage structure and the extent of socioeconomic mobility.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2281

Published: Published as "Household Migration and Rural Settlement in the United States, 1850-1860", Explorations in Economic History, Vol. 26, no. 2: 190-218. (1989)

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