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Measuring human capital in the united states using copyright title pages, 1790-1870

Rapone, Tancredi (2022) Measuring human capital in the united states using copyright title pages, 1790-1870. Prize-winning Student Working Papers (9). London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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This paper uses optical character recognition (OCR) to analyze the production of books in the US over 1790 to 1870 using copyright title pages taken from the online archives of the Library of Congress. We construct national time series of book production over this period which show an uptake in per-capita terms in 1830, around the starting point of the US’ industrial revolution. We break down the production of books into topics using keywords for 8 topics: science, religion, novel, invention, diffusion, business, philosophy and textbook. On this basis we show that the composition of book production by topics is stable over time, except for textbooks and novels which show a persistent increase over the whole period both in relative and absolute terms. This pushes back the beginning of the growth in US human capital before the first reliable data on schooling and literacy starting in 1870. We thus offer mild support to an interpretation of US growth over the 19th century based on the expansion of knowledge and capabilities, while conceding that the link between the content of books and industrialization is tenuous.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
J Political Science > JK Political institutions (United States)
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2022 15:18
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:23

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