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DID RAILROADS INDUCE OR FOLLOW ECONOMIC GROWTH? URBANIZATION AND POPULATION GROWTH IN THE AMERICAN MIDWEST, 1850-60

Jeremy Atack, Fred Bateman (), Michael Haines and Robert Margo
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Fred Bateman: University of Georgia, Department of Economics

No dp-178, Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series from Boston University - Department of Economics

Abstract: For generations of scholars and observers, the "transportation revolution," especially the railroad, has loomed large as a dominant factor in the settlement and development of the United States in the nineteenth century. There has, however, been considerable debate as to whether transportation improvements led economic development or simply followed. Using a newly developed GIS transportation database we examine this issue in the context of the American Midwest, focusing on two indicators of broader economic change, population density and the fraction of population living in urban areas. Our difference in differences estimates (supported by IV robustness checks) strongly suggest that the coming of the railroad had little or no impact upon population densities just as Albert Fishlow concluded some 40 years ago. BUT, our results also imply that the railroad was the "cause" of midwestern urbanization, accounting for more than half of the increase in the fraction of population living in urban areas during the 1850s.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-geo, nep-his and nep-ure
Date: 2009-01
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Forthcoming, SOCIAL SCIENCE HISTORY

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Working Paper: Did Railroads Induce or Follow Economic Growth? Urbanization and Population Growth in the American Midwest, 1850-60 (2009) Downloads
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