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Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?

Abstract

Industrialization and urbanization are seen as twin processes of economic development. However, the exact nature of their causal relationship is still open to considerable debate. This paper uses firm-level data from the manuscripts of the decennial censuses between 1850 and 1880 to examine whether the adoption of the steam engine as the primary power source by manufacturers during industrialization contributed to urbanization. While the data indicate that steam-powered firms were more likely to locate in urban areas than water-powered firms, the adoption of the steam engine did not contribute substantially to urbanization.

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