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Piece rates and learning: understanding work and production in the New England textile industry a century ago.

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New data on individual worker’s outputs show that New England ring spinners exhibited substantial on the job learning c. 1905. Despite this, variable capital-labour ratios meant high labour turnover reduced aggregate labour productivity only fractionally. The combination of variable capital-labour ratios and piece rates meant low average experience levels did not raise unit costs. This made firms willing to hire all comers, so immigrants readily found work. Equally firms were indifferent to labour turnover, so female workers could move between home and market work. As such piece rates were as an appropriate and successful labour market institution for this period.

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en

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application/pdf

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22360/1/wp72.pdf

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