Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development
Between 1800 and 1860, the United States became the preeminent world supplier of cotton as output increased sixty-fold. Technological changes, including the introduction of improved cotton varieties, contributed significantly to this growth. Measured output per worker in the cotton sector rose four-fold and large regional differences emerged. By 1840, output per worker in the New South was twice that in the Old South. The economy-wide increase is explained, in equal measure, by growth in output per worker at fixed locations and by the reallocation of labor across regions. These results offer a new view on the dynamics of economic development in antebellum America.
We have benefited from data graciously provided by Lee Craig, Michael Haines, and Thomas Weiss and the helpful comments of Stanley Engerman, Price Fishback, Joshua Rosenbloom, David Weiman, Thomas Weiss, and Gavin Wright. This research has been supported by NSF SES-0550913, SES-0551130 The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Alan L. Olmstead, “Productivity Growth and the Regional Dynamics of Antebellum Southern Development,” pp. 180 - 213 in Paul W. Rhode, Joshua L. Rosenbloom, and David F. Weiman, eds., Economic Evolution and Revolution in Historical Tim e (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011) (with Paul W. Rhode).