Gold Mining Districts and Path Dependence


This paper applies a quantitative spatial analysis for the long-term impact of Western gold rushes, studying the effect of 19th century US mineral districts on modern (2010) population density. OLS regression estimates show positive effects for areas adjacent to historic mining districts. Census tracts within 15 miles of a mineral district but not containing one are 29.8% more dense than other tracts in the West. Additionally, capital-intensive/large-scale mining was more persistent than labor-intensive/small-scale methods, and path dependence is achieved mainly through agglomeration. This research corroborates historical arguments focusing on the development of Western infrastructure for long term growth, and also contributes to the growing economic literature on path dependence.

Colby College Economics Department Honors Thesis
Jason Dunn
Jason Dunn
Senior Economic Research Associate

I am a Senior Economic Research Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. I will be beginning a PhD program in Economics at Boston University in Fall 2024.