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Land and Racial Wealth Inequality


  • Melinda C. Miller


Could racial wealth inequality have been reduced if freed slaves had been granted land following the Civil War? This paper exploits a plausibly exogenous variation in policies of the Cherokee Nation and southern United States to identify the impact of free land on the size of the racial wealth gap. Using data on land, livestock, and home ownership, I find evidence that former slaves who had access to free land were absolutely wealthier and experienced lower levels of racial wealth inequality in 1880 than former slaves who did not. Furthermore, their children continued to experience these advantages in 1900.

Suggested Citation

  • Melinda C. Miller, 2011. "Land and Racial Wealth Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 371-376, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:3:p:371-76

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barsky R. & Bound J. & Charles K.K. & Lupton J.P., 2002. "Accounting for the Black-White Wealth Gap: A Nonparametric Approach," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 97, pages 663-673, September.
    2. Higgs, Robert, 1982. "Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks before World War I," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 725-737, September.
    3. Gary S. Becker & Nigel Tomes, 1994. "Human Capital and the Rise and Fall of Families," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 257-298 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Joseph P. Ferrie, 1995. "A New Sample of Americans Linked from the 1850 Public Use Micro Sampleofthe Federal Census of Population to the1860 Federal Census Manuscript Sched," NBER Historical Working Papers 0071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Kearl, J R & Pope, Clayne L, 1986. "Unobservable Family and Individual Contributions to the Distributionsof Income and Wealth," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages 48-79, July.
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