Manufacturing Employment at Mid-Century

  • Aaron Gurwitz
Part of the Palgrave Studies in American Economic History book series (AEH)


This chapter turns to an exploration of New York’s antebellum manufacturing sector, its aggregate size, and its industrial composition. One principle prediction of many models of urban economic geography is that the proportion of the population engaged in manufacturing will increase with city size. Analysis of 1860 census manufacturing employment data demonstrates that this was very much the case in the United States on the eve of the Civil War. It is not surprising, therefore, that New York City was an important mid-nineteenth century manufacturing center. The proportion of the population working in manufacturing industries in New York was among the highest across U.S. cities. Contrary to what a naive application of an abstract economic model might have led us to expect, however, the concentration of manufacturing employment in New York was not the highest among large U.S. cities. Metropolitan Boston, for example, with only about three-quarters of metropolitan New York’s population, had a larger manufacturing workforce. Thus, New York’s manufacturing sector was unsurprisingly large but, from a purely theoretical perspective, anomalously small.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Gurwitz
    • 1
  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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