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Did Coal Miners "Owe Their Souls to the Company Store"? Theory and Evidence from the Early 1900s

Price V. Fishback
The Journal of Economic History
Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 1011-1029
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2121820
Page Count: 19
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Did Coal Miners
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Abstract

Although coal companies may have tried to exploit a local-store monopoly, company-store prices in nonunion areas were appreciably limited by competition from other stores and mines in the same labor market. Company stores persisted in part by lowering transactions costs. Prices at company stores were generally similar to those at nearby independent stores, and higher wages may have compensated for higher store prices at isolated mines. Conditions varied, however, with labor-market tightness. Miners were generally not in debt to the store, nor paid entirely in scrip. Scrip was an advance on payday, when miners received cash.

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