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Forging a New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen

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  • Costa, Dora L.
  • Kahn, Matthew E.

Abstract

By the end of the Civil War, 186,017 black men had fought for the Union Army and roughly three-quarters of these men were former slaves. Because most of the black soldiers who served were illiterate farm workers, the war exposed them to a much broader world. The war experience of these men depended upon their peers, their commanding officers, and where their regiment toured. These factors affected the later life outcomes of black slaves and freemen. This paper documents both the short run costs and long run benefits of participating in a diverse environment. In the short run the combat unit benefited from company homogeneity as this built social capital and minimized shirking, but in the long run men's human capital and aquisition of information was best served by fighting in heterogeneous companies.
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Suggested Citation

  • Costa, Dora L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2006. "Forging a New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(04), pages 936-962, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:66:y:2006:i:04:p:936-962_00
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    Cited by:

    1. Franklin G. Mixon & Rand W. Ressler & Richard J. Cebula, 2012. "Beyond the Friday night lights: Social networks, migration, and individual success in college football," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(1), pages 16-26.
    2. Cook, Lisa D. & Logan, Trevon D. & Parman, John M., 2014. "Distinctively black names in the American past," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 64-82.
    3. Logan, Trevon D., 2009. "Health, human capital, and African-American migration before 1910," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 169-185, April.
    4. Green, Tiffany L. & Hamilton, Tod G., 2013. "Beyond black and white: Color and mortality in post-reconstruction era North Carolina," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 148-159.
    5. Lee, Chulhee, 2007. "Military positions and post-service occupational mobility of Union Army veterans, 1861-1880," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 680-698, October.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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