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Did African Americans experience the [`]Antebellum Puzzle'? Evidence from the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War

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Author Info

  • Haines, Michael R.
  • Craig, Lee A.
  • Weiss, Thomas

Abstract

The "Antebellum Puzzle" has been the subject of comment since the 1980s. It involves the paradox that, although the American economy was experiencing rapid economic growth in the several decades prior to the Civil War (1861-1865), the stature of native-born white males had been declining for the birth cohorts from the late 1820s. This was also true for free blacks (Komlos, 1992), but was apparently not true for slaves. This paper uses a sample of 8592 adult back males who were recruits to the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. They were recruited significantly among ex-slaves. Recruits from the birth cohorts of 1838-1842 were then linked to characteristics of their counties of birth from the 1840 and 1850 U.S. Censuses. Unlike slaves in the coastal manifests, these African American recruits showed evidence of a decline in heights from the birth cohorts of the 1820s onwards. Unlike the native-white recruits, however, the characteristics of their counties of birth had relatively less power in explaining differences in heights. There was some support for the mortality hypothesis, but the nutrition hypothesis needs to be interpreted in light of the fact that slave owners has a strong interest in monitoring and controlling the diet of their slaves.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 9 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 45-55

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:9:y:2011:i:1:p:45-55

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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Keywords: Antebellum Puzzle United States Colored troops Heights Civil War;

References

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  1. R. Rees & John Komlos & Ngo V. Long & Ulrich Woitek, 2003. "Optimal food allocation in a slave economy," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 16(1), pages 21-36, 02.
  2. Scott Carson, 2009. "African-American and white inequality in the nineteenth century American South: a biological comparison," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 739-755, July.
  3. John Komlos, 1992. "Toward an Anthropometric History of African-Americans: The Case of the Free Blacks in Antebellum Maryland," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 297-329 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Richard H. Steckel, 1991. "Stature and Living Standards in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Robert W. Fogel, 1986. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Additional Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Marvin Towne & Wayne Rasmussen, 1960. "Farm Gross Product and Gross Investment in the Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters, in: Trends in the American Economy in the Nineteenth Century, pages 255-316 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Robert W. Fogel, 1984. "Nutrition and the Decline in Mortality Since 1700: Some Preliminary Findings," NBER Working Papers 1402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Sven Wilson & Clayne L. Pope, 2003. "The Height of Union Army Recruits. Family and Community Influences," NBER Chapters, in: Health and Labor Force Participation over the Life Cycle: Evidence from the Past, pages 113-146 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Clayne L. Pope, 1992. "Adult Mortality in America before 1900: A View from Family Histories," NBER Chapters, in: Strategic Factors in Nineteenth Century American Economic History: A Volume to Honor Robert W. Fogel, pages 267-296 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Komlos, John, 2012. "A Three-Decade “Kuhnian” History of the Antebellum Puzzle: Explaining the shrinking of the US population at the onset of modern economic growth," Discussion Papers in Economics 12758, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. Sunder, Marco, 2013. "The height gap in 19th-century America: Net-nutritional advantage of the elite increased at the onset of modern economic growth," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 245-258.
  3. Yoo, Dongwoo, 2012. "Height and death in the Antebellum United States: A view through the lens of geographically weighted regression," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 43-53.

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