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Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy

Alan Olmstead and Paul Rhode

No 14142, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: The Cliometrics literature on slave efficiency has generally focused on static questions. We take a decidedly more dynamic approach. Drawing on the records of 142 plantations with 509 crops years, we show that the average daily cotton picking rate increased about four-fold between 1801 and 1862. We argue that the development and diffusion of new cotton varieties were the primary sources of the increased efficiency. These finding have broad implications for understanding the South's preeminence in the world cotton market, the pace of westward expansion, and the importance of indigenous technological innovation.

JEL-codes: J43 N11 N5 O3 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2008-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-eff and nep-his
Note: DAE
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (25)

Published as Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2008. "Biological Innovation and Productivity Growth in the Antebellum Cotton Economy," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(04), pages 1123-1171, December.

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