U.S. Foreign Trade and the Balance of Payments, 1800-1913
This paper reviews the main developments in U.S. trade and the balance of payments from the first years of the 19th century to the first decade of the 20th. American export trade was dominated by agricultural and other resource products long after the majority of the labor force had shifted out of agriculture. The shift out of agriculture was more rapid among the major trading partners of the United States because the American land area increased in the first half of the nineteenth century and agricultural land increased throughout the century. The rise in agricultural land area and a rapid decline in transport cost increased the supply of U.S. agricultural products to Europe and further displaced European agriculture and encouraged migration from Europe. The existence of the large world market, relatively open to the products of American comparative advantage and with a high price elasticity of demand for American exports, encouraged the expansion of U.S. land, agriculture, capital inflows, immigration, and the western migration of population.
Published: Engerman, Stanley and Robert Gallman (eds.) Cambridge Economic History of the United States, vol II. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.