American Growth and the Balance of Payments, 1820-1913: A Study of the Long Swing

By Jeffrey G. Williamson | Go to book overview

II. EXPORTS AND THE LONG SWING

Summary of Findings

An analysis of American nineteenth-century export movements is extremely interesting but, at the same time, very difficult. A history of these secular movements might be divided into three entirely separate and sharply differing periods. From 1822 to 1863 there is indeed striking evidence of two long swings in commodity exports; from trough to trough they cover the years 1822-1844 and 1844-1863. These long swings in aggregate export values are violent in amplitude and similar in timing to Kuznets cycles not only in domestic series but also in imports, the trade balance, and net capital imports. From 1863 to 1886 there is again evidence of a long secular movement in aggregate exports, but it appears to have very little in common with all other indices of American growth and with other components of the balance of payments. Export values do not significantly decline during the depressed 1870's, but they do decline during the 1880's, a decade of generally rapid growth. Thus, there is little similarity between the ante-bellum and immediate post-bellum periods. Between 1886 and 1913, aggregate exports not only reveal very little relationship to domestic long swings but also exhibit an astonishingly high degree of stability. Furthermore, we shall

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