The Growth of Manufactures 1899 to 1923: A Study of Indexes of Increase in the Volume of Manufactures Products

The Growth of Manufactures 1899 to 1923: A Study of Indexes of Increase in the Volume of Manufactures Products

The Growth of Manufactures 1899 to 1923: A Study of Indexes of Increase in the Volume of Manufactures Products

The Growth of Manufactures 1899 to 1923: A Study of Indexes of Increase in the Volume of Manufactures Products

Excerpt

There can be no doubt respecting the importance of the topic which Professor Day and Mr. Thomas discuss in this compact monograph. To most people census statistics have interest primarily or only because they furnish a measure of our national progress. Change and growth have been dominant characteristics of the economic life of the country. It is natural that numerical measures of growth should attract general attention. Here, very likely, is the basis of that peculiar interest in statistical facts which Europeans sometimes say they find in Americans.

The quantitative measure of population increase presents no especial difficulties. Each individual counts for one. The population census gives a direct and unequivocal measure of growth. This is not true, however, of the census of manufactures. The contrast takes on a touch of paradox when it is remembered that while the Constitution requires population to be counted periodically for the purpose of reapportioning Representatives in Congress the census of manufactures was instituted primarily in order that there might be a record of our industrial growth. In short, the present monograph is concerned with what appears to be the most important single question to which the census of manufactures might be expected to supply an answer.

The difficulty is not that the census of manufactures affords no answer or no measure of growth. On the contrary, it furnishes an embarrassing variety of measures. Which among them shall be used: Number of establishments? Capital invested? Gross value of output? Net value of output? Raw materials consumed? Physical quantity (not value) of product? Wage earners employed? Horsepower installed?

That changes in the number of manufacturing establishments have little significance for the purpose in hand is shown by the fact that in a number of rapidly growing industries the number of establishments has sometimes decreased, rather than increased, between one census and another. The amount of capital invested, even if it were known accurately, would bear an uncertain and variable relation to the general progress of manufacturing industry; and, in fact, the census statistics of capital invested are notoriously unreliable . In the total money value of manufacturing output there is much double counting of the products of different manufacturing industries, and there are important elements which must be attributed . . .

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