a1 Lecturer, Boston University School of Law, and Director, Research on Innovation, 202 High Head Road, Harpswell, ME 04079. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much of the rapid growth in output per man-hour in nineteenth-century cotton weaving arose from technical change and how much arose from price-driven substitution of capital for labor? Using an engineering production function, I find that factor price changes account for little of the growth in output per man-hour. However, much of the growth and most of the apparent labor-saving bias arose not from inventions, but from improved labor quality—better workers spent less time monitoring the looms. Labor quality played a critical role in the persistent association between economic growth and capital deepening in this important sector.
Thanks to Daron Acemoglu, Greg Clark, Paul David, Alex Field, Price Fishback, Tim Layton, John Lyons, Bob Margo, Mike Meurer, Petra Moser, Alan Olmstead, Susan Wolcott, Gavin Wright, anonymous referees, and participants at meetings at the ASSA, EHA, NBER, and UC Davis for helpful comments. Thanks to Rick Randall, Mike Christiansen, the Lowell Historical National Park, and the American Textile History Museum for help understanding and measuring loom operation. Thanks to Tom Brush and William Lazonick for sharing data.