Agricultural Labor Productivity in the Lower South, 1720-1800
Peter C. Mancall, Joshua L. Rosenbloom, Thomas Weiss
NBER Working Paper No. 8375
Agriculture dominated the economy of eighteenth-century British America, and the pace of agricultural productivity advance was the primary determinant of the rate of economic growth. In this paper we offer new measures of agricultural productivity advance in the Lower South between 1720 and 1800. Past efforts and quantification have focused exclusively on the region's export performance. In addition to extending and refining measures of regional exports, we develop two new series based on the value of slave labor and on measurements of total agricultural production in the region. Despite differences in their short-term behavior, all of the indices show that long-run productivity improvements were modest at best, and may have been negative. Surprisingly, taking account of production for domestic consumption yields the most favorable long-term performance.
Published: Mancall, Peter, Josh Rosenbloom and Thomas Weiss. "Agricultural Labor Productivity in the Lower South, 1720-1800." Explorations in Economic History (Oct 2002): 390-424.