The Persistence of de Facto Power: Elites and Economic Development in the US South, 1840-1960
AbstractWealthy elites may end up retarding economic development for their own interests. This paper examines how the historical planter elite of the Southern US affected economic development at the county level between 1840 and 1960. To capture the planter elite’s potential to exercise de facto power, I construct a new dataset on the personal wealth of the richest Southern planters before the American Civil War. I find that counties with a relatively wealthier planter elite before the Civil War performed significantly worse in the post-war decades and even after World War II. I argue that this is the likely consequence of the planter elite’s lack of support for mass schooling. My results suggest that when during Reconstruction the US government abolished slavery and enfranchised the freedmen, the planter elite used their de facto power to maintain their influence over the political system and preserve a plantation economy based on low-skilled labor. In fact, I find that the planter elite was better able to sustain land prices and the production of plantation crops during Reconstruction in counties where they had more de facto power.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by European Historical Economics Society (EHES) in its series Working Papers with number 0038.
Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Long-Run Economic Development; Wealth Inequality; Elites and Development; de Facto and de Jure Power; US South;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-04-27 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2013-04-27 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-HME-2013-04-27 (Heterodox Microeconomics)
- NEP-POL-2013-04-27 (Positive Political Economics)
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Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
- The Persistence of de Facto Power: Elites and Economic Development in the US South, 1840-1960
by Nicholas Gruen in Club Troppo on 2013-05-06 13:16:20
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