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Slavery and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital

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  • Bruce Sacerdote

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

Abstract

How much do sins visited upon one generation harm that generation's future sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters? I study this question by comparing outcomes for former slaves and their children and grandchildren to outcomes for free blacks (pre-1865) and their children and grandchildren. The outcome measures include literacy, whether a child attends school, months spent in school, years of schooling, and two measures of adult occupation. Using a variety of different comparisons (for example, within versus across regions) I find that it took roughly two generations for the descendants of slaves to catch up to the descendants of free black men and women, for those outcomes that I observe. In other words, by 1920 the remaining legacy of slavery is such that all blacks are affected equally, not just the actual descendants of slaves. There is some evidence that this convergence was facilitated by intermarriage among slave and free families. The finding of convergence is consistent with modern estimates and interpretations of father-son correlations in income and socioeconomic status. The data used are from the 1880, 1900, 1920, and 1940 1% IPUMS samples, and a 100% sample of the 1880 Census. © 2005 President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 87 (2005)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 217-234

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:87:y:2005:i:2:p:217-234

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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Thomas A. Dunn, 1991. "Relationships Among the Family Incomes and Labor Market Outcomes of Relatives," NBER Working Papers 3724, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Thomas M. Lyons & James J. Heckman & Petra E. Todd, 2000. "Understanding Black-White Wage Differentials, 1960-1990," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 344-349, May.
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  7. Josh Angrist, 2002. "How Do Sex Ratios Affect Marriage And Labor Markets? Evidence From America'S Second Generation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 997-1038, August.
  8. William Darity & Jason Dietrich & David K. Guilkey, 2001. "Persistent Advantage or Disadvantage?: Evidence in Support of the Intergenerational Drag Hypothesis," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 435-470, 04.
  9. Solon, Gary, 1992. "Intergenerational Income Mobility in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(3), pages 393-408, June.
  10. Robert A. Margo, 2002. "The North-South Wage Gap, Before and After the Civil War," NBER Working Papers 8778, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-64, June.
  13. Amitabh Chandra, 2003. "Is the Convergence of the Racial Wage Gap Illusory?," NBER Working Papers 9476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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