American Economic History: Water and Health
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
- Chair: Todd Guilfoos, University of Rhode Island
Playing Checkers in Chinatown
AbstractFrom 1905 to 1935, the city of Los Angeles bought rights to water and land from Owens Valley farmers and built an aqueduct to transfer the water to its residents. The dark version of the story is that Los Angeles bullied and isolated reluctant farmers in order to get cheap water. A map of the plots farmers sold at any given point in time, however, could look like a checkerboard either because the city intentionally targeted specific farmers, whose land sales would create negative externalities for the remaining farmers, or because farmers were heterogeneous and sold at different times. To assess the checkerboarding claim, we analyze sales between the city and farmers and evaluate the effects that farmers' actions had on one another. We estimate a dynamic structural preemption model of farmers' decisions to sell to the city. We find large externalities when farmers sold which are larger for neighboring farmers and when the seller was closer to the river.
The Value of Water Power during the American Industrial Revolution
AbstractWhat drives the spatial dispersion of growth and industry? How important are natural geographic endowments to growth compared to market integration or infrastructure such as railroads? This work measures the historical value of water power during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. I use the variation in agricultural land prices in 1880 to identify the aggregate value of water power. County level water power estimates are based on the 1880 Water Power Census to measure the aggregate value of water power and the importance of natural endowments in economic growth. The aggregate value of a horsepower of water power is valued at $294. The aggregate value is decomposed into direct values (power as a prime mover) and indirect values (attracting infrastructure); approximately 75% of the total value is the direct effect of water power as a prime mover. Indirect value is gained by water power sites attracting railroad infrastructure, affecting the endogenous growth of transportation networks. Validity of the direct value of water power estimates are supported by estimating the elasticity of water power as an input into production using establishment level production data from the Manufacturing census rolls. I find that water power endowments were just as important as infrastructure to the value of the economy in the 19th Century.
Public Health Expenditure and Mortality: Revisiting the Early-Twentieth Century Mortality Decline through the Lens of Local Public Finance
AbstractOver 1900-1940, mortality conditions transformed in both rural and urban areas. This study considers whether broad public health efforts measured by local public health expenditures reduced mortality over this period. Using predicted local spending as an instrument for per capita spending, we show that higher per capita public health expenditures are only associated with infant mortality declines. Despite the importance of local public health spending for infant mortality, higher public health spending fails to predict reductions in all-cause or by-cause mortality. Instead, we show that elevated infectious mortality encourages cities to spend more on public health. Our findings suggest that cities may have directed budgets to remediate poor health conditions rather than general public health expenditure reducing mortality.
- N5 - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment, and Extractive Industries
- N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy