American Banking and the Transportation Revolution Before the Civil War
Studies have shown a connection between finance and growth, but most do not consider how financial and real factors interact to put a virtuous cycle of economic development into motion. As the main transportation advance of the 19th century, railroads connected established commercial centers and made unsettled areas along their routes better candidates for development. We measure the strength of links between railroads and banks in seven Midwest states using an annual transportation GIS database linked to a census of banking. These data indicate that those counties that already had a bank were more likely to see their first railroad go through over the next decade, while new banks tended to enter a county a year or two after it got a railroad. The initial banking system thus helped establish the rail system, while the rapid expansion of railroads helped fill in the banking map of the American Midwest.
We acknowledge the helpful comments of participants at the 7th World Congress of Cliometrics, especially Paul W. Rhode, the 2013 Economic History Association meetings, especially our discussant Peter Temin, and at Williams College. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Atack, Jeremy & Jaremski, Matthew & Rousseau, Peter L., 2014. "American Banking and the Transportation Revolution before the Civil War," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(04), pages 943-986, December. citation courtesy of