Frank Albert Fetter.

Source book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes online

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liiring by the year without board, in the United States in 1866.
This average rate was maintained in 1869, after which there
was an increase to $17.10 in 1875; to $18.52 in 1880 or 1881 ;
to $19.22 in 1885; and in 1909 to $25.46. During the entire
period the wage rate increased about two-thirds. From 1866
to 1909 the increase in the North Atlantic States was from
$22.04 to $30.89 ; in the South Atlantic States, from $10.67 to
$18.76; in the North Central States, from $20.39 to $30.55; in
the South Central States, from $12.57 to $20.27 ; and in the
Western States, from $40.28 to $44.35, a rate of increase in the
last-mentioned group far below that of the other divisions.

The foregoing are money rates of wages, and do not include
supplemental wages not expressed in money which are more
or less customary in all parts of the country. Among the
items of supplemental wages are use of dwelling, often with
garden and accommodations for cow and swine ; wood for fuel ;
pasture for cow, horse, or swine ; and other items.

For onl}^ two years, 1866 and 1909, was the wage rate as-
certained for the outdoor labor of men per month in hiring by
the season without board, and the rates are higher than they
are for hiring by the year. In 1866 the average rate was
$18.08; in 1909, $28.22.

The highest monthly rate, in hiring by the season, paid in
any geographic division in 1909 was $48.04 in the Western ;
after which follow in order, $35.11 in the North Atlantic ; $33.
64 in the North Central; $22.48 in the South Central; and
$20.86 in the Soutli Atlantic.

During the period 1890-1906 wage rates were not ascer-
tained for hiring by the year and season separately, but for
the two combined, and the hirings were combined for 1909.



During this period monthly wage rates in hiring for the season
and year combined, without board, increased from $19,45 to
$27.43. The increase in the North Atlantic division was from
$24.72 to $33.68; in the South Atlantic from $13.94 to $20.13;
in the North Central from $22.25 to $32.90; in the South
Central from $16.10 to $21.85; and in the Western from
$33.96 to $47.24.

Rates per day. Every one of the nineteen investigations of
the wage rates of farm labor included the rate per day in har-
vest work with board. At the beginning of the period, in
1866, the rate was $1.04 and the increase was to $1.18 in 1875,
followed by a decline to $1.04 at the end of the industrial de-
pression of that time, after which there was an advance con-
tinuously to $1.20 in 1882 ; but the depression of 1884-1886
and a period of overproduction and low prices for farm prod-
ucts reduced the rate below that of 1882 until, in the de-
pression of 1893-1897, the rate was as low as 96 cents, after
which there was a marked advance to $1.45 in 1906 and a rate
of $1.43 in 1909.

Among the geographic divisions in 1909 the highest wage
rate for harvest work with board was $2.02 in the Western
States, after which follow in order, $1.87 in the North Central
States ; $1.62 in the North Atlantic ; $1.10 in the South Central ;
and $1.03 in the South Atlantic.

In the North Atlantic division the rate increased through-
out this period, 1866-1909, from $1.32 to $1.62 ; in the South
Atlantic division from 79 cents to $1.03 ; in the North Central
States from $1.31 to $1.87 ; in the South Central States from
92 cents to $1.10; and in the Western States from $1.93 to

Lower rates than the foregoing were paid for day labor in
other than harvest work with board. The average for the
United States begins with 64 cents in 1866, followed by fluctua-
tions similar to those of harvest wages, and ends the period in
1909 with $1.03.

The gain during the forty-four years was from 86 cents to


$1.16 in the North Atlantic division; from 43 cents to 73 cents
in tlio South Athmtic ; from 83 cents to $1.32 in the North
Central; and from 55 cents to 82 cents in the South Central;
while on the contrary there was a decline from $1.49 in 1866
and $1.50 in 1869 to $1.48 in 1909 in the Western States.

Industrialism, trade, and transportation. Several causes
aft'ecting farm wages were investigated in 1909. In the mat-
ter that follows dependence was placed on the census of 1900,
except for the rates of wages. Farm wages are high in States
in which there has been large development of manufacturing,
mining, mechanical pursuits, trade, and transportation in com-
parison with States poorly or less developed in these directions,
and conversely wages are lower in those States in which agri-
culture is predominant than in States where it is a subordinate
industry. States in which the urban population is a large
percentage of the entire population are those States in which
the wages of farm labor are higher than in those in which
urban population is of minor account.

Relation between production and wage rates. Necessarily
in the long course of time the employing farmer must depend
upon the value of his products for the wages that he pays to
his laborers. He can not go on indefinitely paying wages out
of capital, but he must in the general experience pay them out
of farm products. Hence it follows as a matter of inference
that farm wages may be higher in those States in which the
value of the products per worker is higher than in those States
in which the value of products per worker is lower.

This conclusion is amply substantiated in the investigation
of farm wages in 1909. The highest w^ages are paid in the
Western division of States, and in this division the average
value of farm products per agricultural worker in 1899 was
$759. Next below this division in both rate of wages and
average value of farm products per worker, $678, is the North
Central division ; and third in order in both respects is the
North Atlantic division. The South Central division is fourth
in order in both rate of wages and value of products per


worker, which is $271 ; and last of all is the South Atlantic
division in both respects, the average value of products per
worker being $233. These values stand for gross amount of
products, and not for net wealth produced.

Wages supplementary to money rates. The nominal
money rate of wages paid for farm labor by no means fully
represents the real wages received by the laborer. There are
two important additions to the nominal money rate of wages
which enter little if at all into the thoughts and plans of agri-
cultural laborers. A farm laborer receiving, say, $30 per
month, as he did in the North Atlantic and North Central
States in 1909, often receives supplemental wages in the form
of use of dwelling and garden, accommodations for cow, pigs,
and poultry. The value of the supplemental wage allowances
... is relatively a large addition to the nominal rate.

In the case of the man receiving $30 in money wages, the
rental value of dwelling and appurtenances would probably
be about $3.25 to $4.50. If the farm laborer gets firewood as
an item of supplemental wages, its reported value per month
ranges from about $1.06 to $2.39, the latter figure being ap-
plicable to the $30 laborer in the North.

It often happens that the laborer receives supplementary to
his money rate of wages the privilege of pasturing his cow,
horse, or swine, and the estimated monthly cost of this as an
average for the United States is from 65 cents to $1.61. Or,
there may be an allowance for feed outside of pasturage for
cow, or horse, or swine, or poultry, and the cost of this as
established by this investigation ranges from $1.11 to $3.11.

A very common supplementary wage allowance in some
parts of the country, especially in the North Central States,
is the frequent use of a horse and buggy by the farm laborer.
The monthly value of this has been estimated by the corre-
spondents of the Bureau of Statistics in all parts of the United
States, with the result that it ranges from 87 cents to $2.37.
Or, the laborer may own a horse, and stabling and feed are
provided by his employer in addition to the money rate of


wages. For this service it is estimated that the cost ranges
from 45 cents to $2 per month throughout the entire country.

Perhaps the hiborer's family also receives without specific
charge a considerable quantity of fruit. The value of this
fruit is estimated on a monthly basis, although it may have
been received within one season, and ranges from 62 cents to
$1.64 monthly throughout the year. If the laborer is a single
man, his employer hires a woman to do his laundry work as a
part of the family wash, and the value of this service is esti-
mated to range from 75 cents to $2 per month.

No laborer receives all of these supplemental wages, but it
often happens that he receives more than one item of them.
If he is a man of family, an increase of his monthly money
rate of wages by $5 to $10 worth of supplemental allowances
and even more is not uncommon in many States.

Advantage of farm wages in purchasing power. If the
farm laborer is comparing his nominal rate of money wages
with the similar rate of the motorman or conductor of the
electric railway who lives in the city, he must take into con-
sideration the less costly living that he gets on the farm. In
some respects it is a better living, against which of course there
must be made a set-off of features that are in some respects

The farm laborer gets many things at prices which are as
low as wholesale prices in the motorman 's city, and sometimes
lower. He can get his supply of poultry at low prices, if he
does not produce it himself; and so with eggs, milk, and but-
ter ; sometimes flour and meal ; very likely potatoes and other
vegetables and fruit. At low prices he may also get fresh
and salt pork, his fuel and, in many parts of the country, his
tobacco. If he pays rent for his dwelling, he will pay, say,
$40 per year, whereas the motorman with a family pays $150.

All things considered — the allowances received by the farm
laborer supplemental to the money rate of wages and the lower
cost of many things tliat he buys as compared with the cost
in the city — the farm 'laborer receiving nominally $30 per


month really gets, in comparison with his situation as it
would be if he lived in the city, perhaps more than the motor-
man or street-car conductor gets, and very likely in most
cases a larger amount than he would be likely to earn in any
occupation open to him in the city.

The money wage rates of farm laborers have increased in a
marked degree within the last few years, and in this respect
a comparison may be made with the wages of other working-
men. A still further comparison may be made between the
purchasing power of the wages of the farm laborer in terms
of food and the purchasing power of the wages of working-
men. The investigations of the United States Bureau of Labor
make possible this comparison.

If the mean wage rates of agricultural laborers for the years
1890-1898 be regarded as 100, the rate per month of the out-
door labor of men on farms in hiring by the year and season in
1890 is represented by 100.9. The relative number increased
to 103.6 in 1893, and there was a sudden decline to 96,3 in
1894, after which there was an unbroken increase in this rela-
tive number until in 1907 it was 141.1,

The purchasing power of the wages of the farm laborer in
1907 in terms of actual food consumption in comparison with
the mean of 1890-1898 is represented by the comparative num-
ber 117,1. In 1907 the corresponding relative number stand-
ing for the wages of the workingman was 122.5 and the
purchasing power of his wages in terms of actual food con-
sumption in 1907 is represented by the relative number 101.7,
as compared with the mean of 1890-1898 which, as before
stated, is represented by 100.

As time advanced after 1890 the farm laborer, setting out
with wages having a relative purchasing power in terms of
food about equal to that of the workingman, passed him in
this respect in 1899, and rapidly gained upon him in subse-
quent years.

Ability of laborers to become tenants or owners. In
the investigation of farm wages in 1909 inquiries were made


to ascertain to what extent male outdoor farm laborers were
qualified to become i'arm tenants. In the opinion of the cor-
respondents who supplied answers, 48 per cent, of the laborers
of the South Central States are so qualified ; 46 per cent, in the
North Central States; 37 per cent, in the Western; 35 per
cent, in the South Atlantic ; and, lowest of all, 33 per cent, in
the North Atlantic States.

Correspondents were asked whether it was reasonably pos-
sible for farm laborers and tenants to save enough to buy a
farm that would support a family even with the help of a
mortgage, and their replies indicated that 72 per cent, of farm
laborers and tenants find it reasonably possible to acquire
farm ownaership. The percentages for the geographic divi-
sions are all over 70 and under 80 — a remarkably uniform
condition of affairs with regard to this matter throughout the
United States.

Small movement from city to farm. The movement from
city to farm for the purpose of permanent farm life and labor,
either for hire or under ownership, has hardly become general
enough in this country to present recognizable proportions.
There is a little of this movement here and a little there, but
nearly all eases are sporadic.

But there is one sort of labor that goes from city to farm
which has become large enough to be perceptible, and that is
seasonal labor for employment, not in general farming opera-
tions, but for special purposes. The migration of men from
cities to follow the wheat harvest from Oklahoma to North Da-
kota is the best known feature of this sort of farm labor. It
is not so generally known that women and children and some
men, too, go from the city to the farm at certain seasons to
harvest cucumbers to be sold to the pickle factory; to pick,
grade, pack, and dry fruits ; to harvest hops and berries, and
dig potatoes, and so on with other crops that need a rush of
labor at time of harvest. Some labor of this sort is applied
also to the cultivation of crops, as in pulling weeds from beets
and onions, but this labor does not seem to be used much for
cultivating crops and not at all for planting.


[In the British Board of Trade Beport (April, 1911), the following
comparison of wages and of the two main items in the cost of living
shows the "large town" in an unexpectedly favorable light. The ques-
tion occurs whether there are not other elements of income direct and
indirect, psychic or material, which enter into the balance of advan-
tages in living in large or small towns, and thus into the "real
wages" (p. xxxvii).]

Relation of wages to rents and retail food prices. In the

two following tables the mean index numbers for the wages
of skilled men in the building, engineering and printing trades,
and for rents, food prices and rents and food prices combined,
have, for convenience, been brought together for the various
geographical divisions and population groups that have been
already considered:

. . . By combining the mean index numbers of the two main
divisions of the tables — industrial conditions as illustrated by
selected wages groups and social conditions as illustrated by
selected food prices and rents — it is possible to derive an index
number that, so far as this is determined by the element of
charges for rent and food, may be said roughly to indicate
"real wages," i.e., the relative purchasing power of work
people in the different areas and groups. Taking New York
as 100 and working out the percentage ratios of the mean in-
dex numbers for wages to those of the mean index numbers
for rents and food prices combined, the result is shown in the
table on page 185,

In the population groups the order as determined by the
wages index numbers is maintained throughout in the "real
w^ages" column, although the differences from the New York
standard are always diminished, the range being from 89 to




'Slca.n index numbers.

Wajji'fl (skilled men) . Rents and food prices.

o j-

QJ rr.


3 O



^ <" •

rt as
e o n

o o



New York 1

New England towns. 6
Other Eastern towns 4

Central towns G

Middle West towns.. 5
JSoutliorn towns G

Comparison by geographical groups.








New York (popula-
tion 4,7GG,883) ... 1
Otiier towns with

more than 500,000

inhabitants 8 97

Towns with from

250.000 to 500,000

inhabitants 5 92

Towns with from

lOO.noo to 250,000

inhabitants 8 87

Towns with under

100,000 inhabitants 6 83

Comparison by jiopulation groups.
100 100 100 100 100

88 89 78 98

86 87 73 96

83 85 69 101

85 82 64 102





100 instead of 83 to 100, and for the two largest groups of
towns showing, as thus measured, no appreciable difference
from New York.

In the geographical divisions the position as shown is some-
what different, the rather advantageous price levels of the
to-^VT^s of the Middle West combined with a high level of
wages, especially in the building trades, giving an index num-
ber for "real wages," as calculated, 4 points higher than for
New York itself. On the other hand, the high prices of the
New England group of towns combined with a lower level of
wages in the selected trades give a level of "real wages" 15

1 In the eonstniction of this index number food prices have been given
a weight of three and rents of one.



of towns
in group.

Wages of
skilled men
iu building,
and print-
ins trades.

Rents and relative
food prices level of
combined, "real wages."

New York

New England towns
Other Eastern towns

Central towns

Middle West towns . .
Southern towns

Comparison by geographical groups.

1 100 100 100

6 80 94 85

4 87 92 95
6 87 90 97

5 95 91 104

6 88 96 92

New York (popula-
tion 4,766,883)...

Other towns with
more than 500,000

Towns with from
250,000 to 500,000

Towns with from
100,000 to 250,000

Towns with under
100,000 inhabitants

Comparison by population groups.
1 100 100 100













per cent, lower than that of New York, and 7 points lower
than the Southern group of towns — the group which ranks
next above that of New England in the order of purchasing
power as calculated in the table. Apart from these two
groups the difference from the New York standard does not
exceed 5 points. It would be unwise to press the comparisons
shown unduly, but the difference of 19 points shown as be-
tween the New England group and the towns of the Middle
West is considerable, and may probably be taken as an indi-
cation of real differences that exist between a center of indus-
try, such as that of New England, that is now somewhere re-
moved from the main centers of development, and one, such
as that of the towns of the Middle West, that is comparatively
new and able to benefit more immediately from the great
natural resources of the country.


[By Act of Congress, February 20, 1907, an Immigration Commission
was created, to consist of three Senators, three members of the House
of Representatives, and three citizens to be appointed by the Presi-
dent of tiie United States. Tliis commission had the duty of making
full "inquiry, examination and investigation," of the subject of immi-
gration. The results of tlie Commission's thorough work will be
embodied in forty-two volumes, and "tlie gist of the information"
thus collected is presented in a volume prepared by Professor J. W.
Jenks (one of the commissioners) with the collaboration of W. J.
Lauek, expert in charge of the industrial investigations. (Tlie Immi-
gration Problem, N. Y. Funk and Wagnalls, 1912.)

By permission we reproduce (with some amendments by the author)
the greater part of the chapter containing the conclusions as to the
effect of immigration on wages, entitled, "The immigrant as a dynamic
factor in industry" (pp. 182-197).]

The absorption of so larg;e numbers of alien people into
the mines and mannfacturing establishments, and into the
general labor force of the United States, was obviously at-
tended by very important results. These effects of the intense
employment of southern and eastern Europeans may be
briefly considered, from (1) the standpoint of the general in-
dustrial situation, and (2) that of native Americans and older
■workmen. Before entering into a discussion of these effects,
however, it will be necessary, in order that the situation may
be fully comprehended, to review briefly the personal and
industrial qualities of the recent immigrant labor supply to
the United States. These are briefly set forth below.

Lack of technical training. ... An exceedingly small
proportion have had any training abroad for the industrial
occupations in which they have found employment in the
United States. More recent immigrants have been drawn



from the agricultural classes of southern and eastern Europe,
having been farmers or farm laborers in their native lands.
The only exception is the Hebrews, three-fifths of whom were
engaged in some form of manufacturing or hand-trades before
coming to this country.

Illiteracy and inability to speak English. The new im-
migrant labor supply, owing to the fact that it is composed
of men of non-English-speaking races, and is characterized by
a high degree of illiteracy, has been found to possess but small
resources upon which to develop industrial efficiency and ad-
vancement. Owing to their segregation and isolation from
the native American population in living and working con-
ditions, their progress in acquiring the use of the English
language, and in learning to read and write, has been very

Their necessitous condition. . . . Immigrants from the
south and east of Europe have usually had but a few dollars
in their possession when the port of disembarkation in this
country has been reached. During the five years from 1905
to 1909 inclusive the average amount per person among these
immigrants has been somewhat more than one-third as much
as among immigrants from northern and western Europe.
Consequently, finding it absolutely imperative to engage in
work at once, they have not been in a position to take excep-
tion to wages or working conditions, but must obtain employ-
ment on the terms offered or suffer from actual want.

Standards of living. The standards of living of the recent
industrial workers from the south and east of Europe have
also been very low. Furthermore, the recent immigrants be-
ing usually single, or, if married, having left their wives
abroad, have in large measure adopted a group instead of
a family living arrangement, and thereby have reduced their
cost of living to a point far below that of the American or of
the older immigrant in the same industry. The method of
living often followed is that commonly known as the "board-
ing-boss" system. . . .


Under this geueral nietliod of living-, which prevails among
the greater proportion of the imniigTaut households, the entire
outlay for necessary living expenses of each adult member
ranges from $9 to $15 each month. The additional ex-
penditures of the recent immigrant wage-earners are small.
Every effort has been made to save as much as possible. The
entire life interest and activity of the average wage-earner
from southern and eastern Europe has seemed to revolve
about three points: (1) to earn the largest possible amount
under the existing conditions of work; (2) to live upon the
basis of minimum cheapness, and (3) to save as much as
possible. All living arrangements have been subordinated to
the desire to reduce the cost of living to its lowest level.
Comfort seems not to be considered. With such standards of
living the older employees have been unable, or have found
it extremely difficult, to compete.

Lack of permanent interest. . . . Recent immigrants who
have sought work in American industries as a whole have mani-

Online LibraryFrank Albert FetterSource book in economics, selected and ed. for the use of college classes → online text (page 15 of 30)