Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth and Politics in New York, 1791-1826
This paper analyzes the early history of corporate shareholding, and its relationship with political change. In the late eighteenth century, corporations were extremely rare and were dominated by elites, but in the early nineteenth century, after American politics became significantly more democratic, corporations proliferated rapidly. Using newly collected data, this paper compares the wealth and status of New York City households who owned corporate stock to the general population there both in 1791, when there were only two corporations in the state, and in 1826, when there were hundreds. The results indicate that although corporate stock was held principally by the city's elite merchants in both periods, share ownership became more widespread over time among less affluent households. In particular, the corporations created in the 1820s were owned and managed by investors who were less wealthy than the stockholders of corporations created in earlier, less democratic periods in the state's history.
We are grateful to Lee Alston, Naomi Lamoreaux, John Majewski, Robert Wright, David Weiman and participants at the Economic History seminar at Harvard University, the New York City Economic History session at the 2011 Eastern Economic Association conference, and the Cliometrics Society conference for helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Hilt, Eric & Valentine, Jacqueline, 2012. "Democratic Dividends: Stockholding, Wealth, and Politics in New York, 1791–1826," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(02), pages 332-363, June. citation courtesy of