The Role of Distribution in the American Economy

The Role of Distribution in the American Economy
By Harold Barger
2003/09 - Beard Books
1587981971 - Paperback - Reprint  - 240 pp.

Economists and business historians especially will find this volume informative and interesting.

Publisher Comments

Categories: Banking & Finance

This study focuses on the changing role of distribution in the nation's economy and covers the period 1869 to 1950. It addresses such questions as "Has the output, i.e., the services it renders to the consumer, kept pace with the growth of the economy?" The book is divided into two parts, one dealing with trends in employment and output, and the other covering the history of distribution cost. The emphasis is on quantitative measurement, combined with an interesting discussion of the nature and direction of the economic sector.

No book reviews available.

Harold Barger, 1907-1989, was an educator and economist. He was a Professor of Economics at Columbia University from 1939 to 1989. He was also a member of the research staff of the National Bureau of Economic Research and is well known for his published studies of output, employment, and productivity.

Acknowledgment vii
Foreword ix


1. Distribution's Growing Share of the Labor Force 3
Commodity production and commodity distribution 6
Aspects of distribution's growth since 1869 9
Labor input measured in man-hours 10
The share of wholesale trade 14
Women in distribution 15
Part-time and unpaid family workers 16
Summary 19
2.  How Fast Did Output Expand? 20
Goods distributed 20
Commodity output 20
Output of finished goods 24
Finished goods sold through retail stores 25
Reweighting by distribution cost 26
Summary 27
Services rendered by distribution 28
Services furnished and functions performed 29
Store facilities 29
Service at point of sale 31
Packaging and minor processing 31
Free home trial of merchandise 32
Return privileges 33
Credit 33
Delivery 35
"Adjustments" 36
Summary 36
3. Productivity and Its Measurement 37
Productivity and employment 41
Reliability of productivity measures 42
Growth of productivity and the cost of distribution 44
Interpretation of results 49
Summary 52


4. Measures of the Cost of Distribution 55
1869-1929: Commodity-output method 56
All commodities retailed 56
Consumable commodities 58
1929-1948: Volume-of-sales method 60
Has distribution cost increased? 61
Distribution cost and national product 63
5. The Changing Channels of Distribution 65
The flow through the system, 1869-1929 66
Rise and decline of the wholesaler 69
The flow through the system, 1929-1948 70
Accuracy of the results 78
The problem of absolute size 78
The understatement of trends 79
Summary 79
6. Trends in Margins 80
Retail margins 80
Wholesale margins 83
Sources of data 85
Census inquiries 85
Other published information 86
Unpublished records 87
Summary 90
7. Measures of Spread by Kind of Outlet 91
The dispersion of costs 93
Trends in distributive spread 95
Summary 97


A. Employment, Earnings and Labor Income in Distribution and Commodity Production 101
Employment in distribution 101
Employment in commodity production 105
Sales employees not in distribution 106
Hourly earnings in distribution and commodity production 108
Estimation of labor income from value added 108
B. Procedures Used in Estimating Value Added by Distribution 112
Classification of retail outlets 112
Estimates for 1869 to 1929 114
Reclassification by retail outlet: who sold what 116
Allocation to wholesaling versus direct purchases 118
Double Wholesaling 120
Estimates of retail sales 122
Estimates for 1929, 1939, 1948 122
Discrepancy between estimates for 1929 123
Kuznet's explanation 123
Some further considerations 125
C. Sources of Margin Data 152
D. Bibliography of Periodicals in Retail and Wholesale Trade to 1919 198
Index 217

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