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Up from Poverty? The 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery and the Long-run Distribution of Wealth

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  • Hoyt Bleakley
  • Joseph P. Ferrie

Abstract

The state of Georgia allocated most of its land to the public through a system of lotteries. These episodes provide unusual opportunities to assess the long-term impact of large shocks to wealth, as winning was uncorrelated with individual characteristics and participation was nearly universal among the eligible population of adult white male Georgians. We use one of these episodes to examine the idea that the lower tail of the wealth distribution reflects in part a wealth-based poverty trap because of limited access to capital. Using wealth measured in the 1850 Census manuscripts, we follow up on a sample of men eligible to win in the 1832 Cherokee Land Lottery. We assess the impact of lottery winning on the distribution of wealth 18 years after the fact. Winners are on average richer (by an amount close to the median of 1850 wealth), but mainly due to a (net) shifting of mass from the middle to the upper tail of the wealth distribution. The lower tail is largely unaffected.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19175.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19175

Note: DAE DEV LS
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  1. Alvin S. Tostlebe, 1957. "The Value of Physical Capital in Agriculture," NBER Chapters, in: Capital in Agriculture: Its Formation and Financing Since 1870, pages 52-73 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Wright, Gavin & Kunreuther, Howard, 1975. "Cotton, Corn and Risk in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 35(03), pages 526-551, September.
  3. Wishart, David M., 1995. "Evidence of Surplus Production in the Cherokee Nation Prior to Removal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(01), pages 120-138, March.
  4. Fogel, Robert W & Engerman, Stanley L, 1977. "Explaining the Relative Efficiency of Slave Agriculture in the Antebellum South," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 275-96, June.
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  7. Weiman, David F., 1991. "Peopling the Land by Lottery? The Market in Public Lands and the Regional Differentiation of Territory on the Georgia Frontier," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, vol. 51(04), pages 835-860, December.
  8. Gregory Clark & Neil Cummins, 2013. "Surnames and social mobility: England 1230-2012," Economic History Working Papers, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History 54515, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  9. Michael Carter & Christopher Barrett, 2006. "The economics of poverty traps and persistent poverty: An asset-based approach," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(2), pages 178-199.
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Cited by:
  1. Hoyt Bleakley & Joseph P. Ferrie, 2013. "Shocking Behavior : Random Wealth in Antebellum Georgia and Human Capital Across Generations," NBER Working Papers 19348, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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