NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Did Late Nineteenth Century U.S. Tariffs Promote Infant Industries? Evidence from the Tinplate Industry

Dougas A. Irwin

NBER Working Paper No. 6835
Issued in December 1998
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ITI

This paper examines the role of late nineteenth century U.S. tariffs in promoting infant industries by focusing on the much heralded example of the tinplate industry. After earlier failures, the tinplate industry became established and flourished after receiving protection in the McKinley tariff of 1890. Treating the entry and exit decisions of producers as endogenous, a probability model is estimated to determine the conditions under which domestic tinplate production will take place. Counterfactual simulations indicate that, in the absence of the McKinley duties, domestic tinplate production would have arisen about a decade later as U.S. iron and steel prices (comprising three-quarters of production costs) converged with those in Britain. While the tariff accelerated the industry's development, welfare calculations suggest that protection does not pass a cost-benefit test.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6835

Published: Journal of Economic History (June 2000).

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