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Interregional Price Difference in the New Orleans Auctions Market for Slaves


  • Choo, Eugene
  • Eid, Jean


Our article investigates the variation of winning bids in slave auctions held in New Orleans from 1804 to 1862. Specifically, we measure the variation in the price of slaves conditional on their geographical origin. Previous work using a regression framework ignored the auction mechanism used to sell slaves. This introduced a bias in the conditional mean of the winning bid because it depended on the number of bidders participating in the auction. Unfortunately, the number of bidders is unobserved by the econometrician.We adopt the standard framework of a symmetric independent private value auction and propose an estimation strategy to attempt to deal with this omitted variable bias. Our estimate of the mean number of bidders doubled from 1804 to 1862. We find the number of bidders had a significant positive effect on the average winning bid. An increase from 20 to 30 bidders in an auction raised the average winning bid by around 10%. The price variation according to the geographical origin of slaves found in earlier work continues to persist after accounting for the omitted variable. We also find a new result that a considerable premium is paid for slaves originating from New Orleans. However, this price variation disappears once we account for regional productivity differences.

Suggested Citation

  • Choo, Eugene & Eid, Jean, 2008. "Interregional Price Difference in the New Orleans Auctions Market for Slaves," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 26, pages 486-509.
  • Handle: RePEc:bes:jnlbes:v:26:y:2008:p:486-509

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robinson, Peter M, 1988. "Root- N-Consistent Semiparametric Regression," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 931-954, July.
    2. Philip A. Haile & Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2003. "Nonparametric Tests for Common Values in First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1445, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Bernard Elyakime & Jean-Jacques Laffont & Patrice Loisel & Quang Vuong, 1994. "First-Price Sealed-Bid Auctions with Secret Reservation Prices," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 34, pages 71-114.
    4. Whaples, Robert, 1995. "Where Is There Consensus Among American Economic Historians? The Results of a Survey on Forty Propositions," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(01), pages 139-154, March.
    5. Bruce C. Greenwald & Robert R. Glasspiegel, 1983. "Adverse Selection in the Market for Slaves: New Orleans, 1830–1860," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(3), pages 479-499.
    6. Schennach, Susanne M., 2004. "Nonparametric Regression In The Presence Of Measurement Error," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(06), pages 1046-1093, December.
    7. Yatchew,Adonis, 2003. "Semiparametric Regression for the Applied Econometrician," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521012263, March.
    8. Jonathan B. Pritchett & Richard M. Chamberlain, 1993. "Selection in the Market for Slaves: New Orleans, 1830–1860," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 461-473.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pritchett, Jonathan & Freudenberger, Herman, 2016. "A Peculiar Sample: A Reply to Steckel and Ziebarth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(01), pages 139-162, March.
    2. Winter, Jennifer L., 2010. "Buying Anonymity: An Investigation of Petroleum and Natural Gas Lease Auctions," MPRA Paper 35560, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2011.
    3. Conor Lennon, 2016. "Slave Escape, Prices, and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 669-695.
    4. Charles W. Calomiris & Jonathan Pritchett, 2016. "Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(1), pages 1-23, January.

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