Soft Coal, Hard Choices: The Economic Welfare of Bituminous Coal Miners, 1890-1930

Hardcover | April 30, 1999

byPrice V. Fishback

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While most studies of labor in the coal industry focus on the struggle to organize unions, this work offers a more diverse and quantitative examination of the labor market. It regards the economic lives of the bituminous coal miners in the early twentieth century. Fishback's analytic frameworkencompasses competition among employers for labor, the legal environment, institutional development in response to transactions costs as well as the impact of labor unions on the coal industry. Utilizing economic theory and statistics, Fishback reveals the models hidden in the descriptions ofevents, and then tests their internal consistency as well as the hypotheses they generate.

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From Our Editors

Did miners really owe their souls to the company store? Did they receive lower pay than in other jobs, despite the constant danger they faced? Was the quality of life in mining towns uniformly dismal? Soft Coal, Hard Choices answers these and other questions. The book contradicts many myths using evidence ranging from company records t...

From the Publisher

While most studies of labor in the coal industry focus on the struggle to organize unions, this work offers a more diverse and quantitative examination of the labor market. It regards the economic lives of the bituminous coal miners in the early twentieth century. Fishback's analytic frameworkencompasses competition among employers for...

From the Jacket

'Price Fishback insists that economic organizations of all kinds, including even coal mining and company towns, can and should be examined in a disciplined way. His fascinating treatment breathes new life into these issues and will be of interest to students of labor and economic organization alike.'Oliver E. Williamson

Price V. Fishback is at University of Arizona.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:296 pages, 9.65 × 6.61 × 1.1 inPublished:April 30, 1999Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195067258

ISBN - 13:9780195067255

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From Our Editors

Did miners really owe their souls to the company store? Did they receive lower pay than in other jobs, despite the constant danger they faced? Was the quality of life in mining towns uniformly dismal? Soft Coal, Hard Choices answers these and other questions. The book contradicts many myths using evidence ranging from company records to oral histories to statistics collected by state and federal governments. While most studies of labor in the coal industry focus on union struggles, Fishback discloses the beneficial impact of competition among employers for labor. He further examines the impact of legal environment and the development of institutions like company towns. Careful analysis using economic theory and statistics reveals numerous insights about the welfare of coal miners in the early 1900s. Unions helped miners obtain higher wages, but so did competition among employers. Employers were unable to exploit local and housing monopolies because the miners had the option of moving from town to town. Workers choosing between mining and other jobs faced a hard ch

Editorial Reviews

"[A] provocatively written analysis....This book warrants reading, and has a definite place in labor historiography and labor economics."--Monthly Labor Review