NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Tariffs and Growth in Late Nineteenth Century America

Douglas A. Irwin

NBER Working Paper No. 7639
Issued in April 2000
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ITI

Were high import tariffs somehow related to the strong U.S. economic growth during the late nineteenth century? This paper examines this frequently mentioned but controversial question and investigates the channels by which tariffs could have promoted growth during this period. The paper shows that: (i) late nineteenth century growth hinged more on population expansion and capital accumulation than on productivity growth; (ii) tariffs may have discouraged capital accumulation by raising the price of imported capital goods; (iii) productivity growth was most rapid in non-traded sectors (such as utilities and services) whose performance was not directly related to the tariff.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7639

Published: Douglas A. Irwin, 2001. "Tariffs and Growth in Late Nineteenth Century America," The World Economy, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 24(1), pages 15-30, 01.

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