Skip to comments.What caused westward expansion in the United States?
Posted on 02/28/2008 3:21:48 PM PST by decimon
Study reveals that the price of land was less important than technological innovation
Western Expansion during the nineteenth century was an important determinant of geographic distribution and economic activity in the United States today. However, while explanations abound for why the migration occurred from the low price of land to a pioneering spirit little empirical work has been done to determine which specific market forces were the most important drivers.
Applying quantitative analysis to historical explanations, a new study by economist Guillaume Vandenbroucke of the University of Southern California finds that the price of land was significantly less important to Westward Expansion than population growth and technological innovation leading to a decrease in transportation costs.
From 1800 to 1900, the United States tripled in size, from less than one million square miles to more than three million square miles. The geographic distribution of population also shifted, from about seven percent living in the West to roughly 60 percent. To examine what forces were most directly responsible for the magnitude of this movement and land accumulation, Vandenbroucke takes into account such factors as the amount of land available in the Eastern United States, wage and productivity growth in the East, and improvements in technologies and transportation infrastructures.
To account for the range of variables and possible factors, Vandenbroucke determined a model in which each factor was held at a constant level while the others shifted at historical rates.
The most important forces are population growth and the decrease in transportation costs, Vandenbroucke said. Population growth is mostly responsible for the investment in productive land without it less than half of the land accumulated in 1900 would have been accumulated.
Surprisingly, Vandenbroucke found that changes in productivity in the East had little effect on the Westward Expansion, relative to population growth and a decrease in transportation costs as he explains, rising wages and productivity makes it easier to move, but it also makes it less pressing to move.
Instead, he finds that population growth and technological innovation worked in concert as the main driving factors of Western Expansion. Specifically, the decrease in transportation costs induced Western migration and the redistribution of the American population without it only 30 percent of the population would have been in the West in 1900, compared to an actual historical figure of 60 percent. Land improvement technology, such as the use of barbed wire to cut down on the time needed to build a fence, had a small effect on the accumulation of land in the West.
Vandenbrouckes findings, appearing in the current issue of International Economic Review, have important implications for how to understand current population patterns and international immigration to the United States.
About the University of Southern California: Established in 1880, the University of Southern California is one of the worlds leading private research universities and the oldest private research university in the western United States. USC enrolls more international students than any other U.S. university and offers extensive opportunities for internships and study abroad. With a strong tradition of integrating liberal and professional education, USC fosters a vibrant culture of public service and encourages students to cross academic as well as geographic boundaries in their pursuit of knowledge.
Maybe it is because I am a 4th generation Native Texan... but I can not find any blame with Ditter's ancestors or mine?
Flame away, Texashaters. You always do.
My family hates gold. We prefer dirt. My family owns a lot of dirt and dirt is gold.
That facist prick Jefferson sent the lead scouts (Lewis and Clark) of the soon to follow army of invaders whose sole purpose was to deprive the natives of their 500 square mile per family legacy. Jefferson was a racist and an imperialist and, and, and white! < /sarc > just in case.
LOL! They are just jealous of our fabulous heritage.
No argument from me as there are always multiple reason for grand events. But this research attempts to discover what were the primary reasons for great numbers of people to move west. Or maybe it's better to say what enabled great numbers of people to move west.
Well, that hasn't been in this thread so I don't know why you are begging it.
I think yee struck the nail on the head.
She makes this very complicated. The real answer is land, Land, LAND!
All you need to know cane be found by asking genealogists why the west expanded so rapidly.
I again recommend.... Read the book.... it is heavily researched and offers the primary reasons in extreme detail.
It was a process, not an event
(Some say the first chapters are pretty intense, but it gets much better as you get into it)
You’re right, as many reasons as there were families. Some in my grandmother’s family just kept moving west, first to central PA, then some to Ohio, and then to Walla Walla, WA in 1860, for the cheap land, full of the old pioneering spirit. I think that we call them risk takers, now.
And that life in major eastern cities simply, to borrow a word from the vernacular of today’s youth, megasucked.
The real reason is all the really hot women were willing to travel west and their mothers would stay put.
Now what's this about a computer simulation about moving to California? It's probably because nobody wanted to stop in Nevada.
That is part of the answer. Carpet baggers taxed southern land owners out of existence so they went west where taxes were cheaper than the land.
I think the cause if western expansion was that we started in the east.
Y’all got it wrong!
The Indians sent out their invitations for the Grand Opening of their casinos just a tad bit early!
Having spent a four years living in Oklahoma all I can say is it had to happen sooner or later.
Huh, never thought about ghat..
Why don't the intellectuals look at the social controls, the 'uptight' lifestyles of the rich and famous? The reality of the dominance of the blue bloods over the masses is forgotten history.