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Railroads and American economic growth : a "market access" approach

Author: Dave Donaldson; Richard Hornbeck; National Bureau of Economic Research.
Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : National Bureau of Economic Research, 2013.
Series: Working paper series (National Bureau of Economic Research), no. 19213.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : EnglishView all editions and formats
Summary:
This paper examines the historical impact of railroads on the American economy. Expansion of the railroad network may have affected all counties directly or indirectly -- an econometric challenge that arises in many empirical settings. However, the total impact on each county is captured by changes in that county's "market access," a reduced-form expression derived from general equilibrium trade theory. We measure  Read more...
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Genre/Form: History
Material Type: Document, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Dave Donaldson; Richard Hornbeck; National Bureau of Economic Research.
OCLC Number: 852800960
Notes: Title from http://www.nber.org/papers/19213 viewed July 15, 2013.
"July 2013."
Description: 1 online resource (44 pages) : illustrations, maps.
Series Title: Working paper series (National Bureau of Economic Research), no. 19213.
Responsibility: Dave Donaldson, Richard Hornbeck.

Abstract:

This paper examines the historical impact of railroads on the American economy. Expansion of the railroad network may have affected all counties directly or indirectly -- an econometric challenge that arises in many empirical settings. However, the total impact on each county is captured by changes in that county's "market access," a reduced-form expression derived from general equilibrium trade theory. We measure counties' market access by constructing a network database of railroads and waterways and calculating lowest-cost county-to-county freight routes. As the railroad network expanded from 1870 to 1890, changes in market access were capitalized into county agricultural land values with an estimated elasticity of 1.1. County-level declines in market access associated with removing all railroads in 1890 are estimated to decrease the total value of US agricultural land by 64%. Feasible extensions to internal waterways or improvements in country roads would have mitigated 13% or 20% of the losses from removing railroads.

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