The Journal of Economic History


The Emergence of Farm Labor Markets and the Transformation of the Rural Economy: Massachusetts, 1750–1855

Winifred B. Rothenberga1

a1 The author is Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155.


This article proposes to do three things: to test for and date the emergence and integration of regional farm labor markets in Massachusetts; to demonstrate their growth consequences for the preindustrial economy; and to present new wage and labor productivity indices for the agricultural economy of Massachusetts from 1750 to 1855. Together with my previous studies it makes the case that the economy of rural Massachusetts was transformed by and under the subtle dominion of commodity, capital, and labor markets, the simultaneous emergence of which by 1800 is observed in the behavior of relevant prices and ratified in the growth of labor productivity.