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Social savings

Publication Date
  • Hb Economic Theory
  • Hc Economic History And Conditions
  • Economics
  • History


'Social savings' is a cliometric concept to measure the benefit to society of technological improvements. The terms are defined, and the relationship between social savings and consumer surplus, total factor productivity and growth accounting measures is discussed. We critically outline Fogel's original application of social savings to American railroads in 1890, before looking at subsequent uses of the concept, both to other transport improvements and to other technological changes more generally. The paper concludes by setting out areas to which social savings could be applied, as well as setting out guidelines that future economic historians should use when applying the technique, in order to maximize the likely usefulness of any such work.

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