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Transportation and Development:Insights from the U.S. 1840-1860

Arilton Teixeira (), Berthold Herrendorf and James A Schmitz Jr
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James A Schmitz Jr: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

No 18, Fucape Working Papers from Fucape Business School

Abstract: We study the effects of large transportation costs on economic development. Since reliable data for developing countries are hard to come by, we go back in time to the Midwest and the Northeast of the U.S. This is a natural case to study because starting from 1840 decent data is available showing that the two regions shared key characteristics with today's developing countries and that transportation costs were large and then came way down. To disentangle the effects of the large reduction in transportation costs from those of other changes that happened during 1840{1860, we build a model that speaks to the distribution of people across regions and across the sectors of production. We find that the large reduction in transportation costs was a quantitatively important force behind the settlement of the Midwest and the regional specialization that concentrated agriculture in the Midwest and industry in the Northeast. Moreover, we find that it led to the convergence of the regional per capita incomes measured in current regional prices and that it increased real GDP per capita. However, the increase in real GDP per capita is considerably smaller than that resulting from the productivity growth in the nontransportation sectors.

Keywords: regional income convergence; settlement; structural transformation; trans-portation costs. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 35
Date: 2009-12
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Published in Fucape Working Papers Dezembro 2009

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