Economic History Workshop | "The Geography of Black Economic Progress After Slavery"

Economic History Workshop
Event date: 
September 23, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:20pm
Lukas Althoff
Princeton University
Seminar Series: 
Economic History Workshop
Co-Sponsored by: 
Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Finance and Public Policy
Princeton University

"The Geography of Black Economic Progress After Slavery"

Lukas Althoff, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Economics, Princeton University

Location: A71 Louis A. Simpson International Building

This hybrid workshop will be hosted by the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Finance and Public Policy. Registration is required to attend either in-person or virtually. Open to faculty, scholars, and students of Princeton University and the Institute for Advanced Study. 

With slavery ending in 1865, four million people (90 percent of the Black population) were freed. How has the socioeconomic status of those enslaved up to 1865 evolved compared to the descendants of Black Americans that were already free before? To answer this question, we use linked full-count U.S. Census data between 1850 and 1940 and a new strategy to accurately identify descendants of free and enslaved Black Americans across all U.S. regions. Our strategy exploits that before 1870, only free Black Americans were enumerated by the Census. Our main results suggest that the disadvantage in terms of income, wealth, and education faced by the former slaves persisted across all generations in our sample. For instance, in 1940 descendants of slaves still earned 32 percent less than descendants of free Black Americans on average. We show that the economic geography of the U.S. was an important driver of Black economic progress. Counties that were more urban and had higher rates of Black kids in school in 1865 led to better outcomes.

Robert Yee
Area of Interest: 
Economic History
United States
19th Century
20th Century