Published by EH.NET (April 2006)


Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright, editors, Historical Statistics of the United States, Volume Five: Governance and International Relations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. xiv + 856 pp. $825 (for the five-volume set), ISBN: 0-521-85390-7.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Gary D. Libecap, Department of Economics, University of Arizona.

When my daughter was young and used to go with me to the Government Documents section of the University of Arizona Library, she always thought of the place as “boring.” This volume of the new Historical Statistics of the United States is any thing but. It is for those who love and depend on government data and documents. It is loaded with all that a researcher might need, and then some. It is an essential research and reference tool. The editors are to be commended, as well as the contributors to the individual chapters in this volume. They have provided a public good that will advance the profession. Moreover, the narratives that precede the tables in each of the chapters are themselves wonderful with overviews of the data, bibliographic information, and interpretations of some of the key material. John Wallis’s discussion of “Government Finance and Employment” is especially useful because of the way in which he brings together the subsequent data, but all of the narratives in the volume are of similar quality. These narratives make this volume more than a reference work because it also provides interpretation and guidance. There are eight chapters, plus an appendix.

The first is “Government Finance and Employment,” edited by John Wallis. It includes federal, state, and local government expenditures, revenues, employment, expenditures by function, tax revenues of various types, and the federal debt. Chapter two, “Elections and Politics” is edited by John McIver. It has an excellent overview of U.S. politics, plus over two pages of references from political science that will be of use to economists and economic historians not familiar with that literature. The tables include the apportionment of the House of Representatives since 1787, voting participation, electoral votes cast by state in various presidential elections, party votes, presidential vetoes, and the make up of Congress by party since 1789. Chapter three, “Crime, Law Enforcement, and Justice,” is by Douglas Eckberg and Richard Sutch. The data tables cover crime rates and numbers by offense, arrests by ethnicity and race, suicide, homicides, prison population, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal justice expenditures, Supreme Court cases, as well as case loads of the federal and state courts. Chapter four, “National Defense, Wars, Armed Forces, and Veterans,” edited by Scott Sigmund Gartner and Hugh Rockoff, provides a bibliographic narrative and tables on military personnel by branch, casualties, selective service registrations, government defense expenditures, major battles, plus major conflicts with American Indians in the nineteenth century, number of veterans, and Veterans Administration expenditures. Many will find Chapter Five, “International Trade and Exchange Rates,” edited by Michael Edelstein, Douglas Irwin, and Lawrence Officer very helpful. There is an overview of trade patterns along with a definition of terms followed by data on the balance of payments, overseas investments in the U.S., foreign direct investments by Americans, export and import data by type, destination, and origin, and exchange rates. Chapter 6 provided by Sumner La Croix presents data on “Outlying Areas” — Alaska, Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, the Canal Zone and the Philippines. Population data as well as information on education levels, infant mortality, GDP, price indices, tourism, exports and imports are part of this chapter. Chapter 7, “Colonial Statistics,” is edited by John McCusker. His narrative is another favorite, with overviews of colonial history and over five pages of bibliographic references. Information on colonial population by age, sex, race, and servant status is provided, along with data on slave importation, wealth, wholesale prices, exchange rates, agricultural and fishery output, and international trade. Roger Ransom’s Chapter 8 on the Confederate States of America presents data on population, agricultural output, the money supply, prices, and bond issues of the Confederacy. The volume ends with one Appendix edited by Alan Olmstead and Richard Sutch on “Weights, Measures, and Monetary Values” for conversions; another appendix on “States and Census Regions” by Monty Hindman, and a final appendix, “Origin of Historical Statistics of the United States” by Carmel Ullman Chiswick. There also is an index to help guide the researcher through the data. This is a fantastic volume to an equally fantastic new edition of Historical Statistics.

Gary D. Libecap has just completed a book manuscript, Chinatown: Owens Valley and Its Meaning for Western Water, forthcoming from Stanford University Press. In July he will become Professor of Corporate Environmental Management in the Department of Economics and School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara.