Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Economics Dept.


James Siodla


This paper applies quantitative spatial analysis to the long-term impact of Western gold rushes, studying the effect of 19th century US mineral districts on modern (2010) population density, as a proxy for long-term economic growth. 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. 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. It also contributes to the growing economic literature on the persistence of place.


Gold, Persistence of Place, Spatial, Population Density, Aglommeration, ArcGIS