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The price of Cherokee removal


  • Gregg, Matthew T.
  • Wishart, David M.


In this paper, we estimate the social costs and income transfers of Cherokee removal, i.e., “The Trail of Tears.” Our cost estimates provide several new insights into this extensively studied topic. First, our estimate of the number of removal-related fatalities is considerably lower than the commonly accepted figure of 4000. Second, the uncompensated value of ceded Cherokee land in the southeast was the largest cost borne by the Cherokees, followed in magnitude by the value of lost agricultural output due to removal. Third, American taxpayers paid for roughly 44% of the total social costs of removal. Also, the cost burden of Cherokee removal, as a share of 1year's GDP, was greater for the Cherokees than the cost burden of any major war for the American population.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregg, Matthew T. & Wishart, David M., 2012. "The price of Cherokee removal," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(4), pages 423-442.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:49:y:2012:i:4:p:423-442
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eeh.2012.07.005

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    American Indians; Cherokee removal; Trail of tears; Economic costs; Cost accounting; Transaction costs;

    JEL classification:

    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • N41 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N42 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-


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