The Hidden Cost of Economic Development

The Biological Standard of Living in Antebellum Pennsylvania
Author(s): 
Cuff, Timothy
ISBN: 
0754641198
Date published: 
February 2005
Hardback
Price: 
£55.00
Pages: 
0

During the mid-nineteenth century, the American economy grew rapidly as industrialization began to take a firm hold on the nation, and per capita net national product increased significantly. Yet despite this economic bustle and increased affluence, signs of adversity associated with the structural changes from a primarily agricultural, to an industrial economy can be detected. As this book demonstrates, the onset of modern economic growth impinged upon the health and biological well-being of the men and women experiencing that rapid structural transformation.

Using detailed statistical analysis of Civil War enlistment records, this book examines the relationship between economic change and changes in the biological standard of living. It argues that industrialization had hidden costs - even in the United States with its abundant resources. Population growth, urbanization and market integration all seem to have had a deleterious effect on the biological well-being of the population, which can be measured in biological statistics.

Appealing to a wide circle of scholars, including historians, anthropologists and economists, this book introduces a new conceptualization of the standard of living, and explores social differences in welfare during the period considered. It shows that expansion of the market can be a two-edged sword in that it can increase incomes but simultaneously have an adverse effect on the health and nutritional status of the children living through those times. This conclusion is reached through close analysis of an extensive new data set obtained meticulously from the United States National Archive.