Household Migration, Urban Growth, and Industrialization: the United States, 1850-1860

38 Pages Posted: 26 May 2004 Last revised: 28 Mar 2021

See all articles by Richard H. Steckel

Richard H. Steckel

Ohio State University (OSU) - Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 1987

Abstract

This paper utilizes a national sample of nearly 1,600 households linked in the census manuscript schedules to investigate causes and consequences of migration to urban areas during the midst of America's industrial revolution. Although record linkage was limited to the subset of households that had at least one child in 1850, the data are relatively rich in socioeconomic information. A regional analysis of migration and occupational change shows that while established households were generally mobile, they were extraordinarily reluctant to commit labor to urban- industrial pursuits. The evidence suggests that the presence of children, retraining costs, lack of control over fertility, risk aversion, and an unfavorable view of urban areas by rural residents contributed to their avoidance of cities and towns. The findings also contribute to debates over the compression of the wage structure and the extent of socioeconomic mobility.

Suggested Citation

Steckel, Richard H., Household Migration, Urban Growth, and Industrialization: the United States, 1850-1860 (June 1987). NBER Working Paper No. w2281, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=420285

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