Railroads, Geographic and Social Mobility: Evidence from Nineteenth Century America

Nya Fest Session 1: International Trade, Mobility and Development organized by Samuel Marknäs


Maxence Castiello, Clément Bosquet


Very short abstract: We provide microeconomic evidence on the effect of transportation infrastructure in shaping individuals’ opportunities. We use the expansion of the railway network in the 19th century United-States and individual-level longitudinal data. Exploiting time-variation in railroad connectivity in a DiD fashion, we document substantial shifts in the local economic activities at the county-level. These changes in the occupational structure primarly benefited the youngest cohorts, suggesting for intergenerational mobility effects. We implement a gravity framework to further investigate the underlying role of geographic mobility and local opportunities in promoting social mobility.


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