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The organization of an ethnic economy: Urban black communities in the early twentieth century


  • Boyd, Robert L.


Pioneering investigations of urban black communities have asserted that during the early twentieth century, the diverse activities of black entrepreneurs were not organized into a coherent ethnic economy. However, in the present study, multivariate analyses of Census data cast doubt on this assertion. They show that in large northern cities, measures of black participation in numerous entrepreneurial and professional occupations were positively and significantly associated with one another and were, in some cases, positively associated with measures of black participation in various public service, artistic, entertainment, and mass media occupations. There is evidence, then, for a revisionist view of black enterprise that suggests that important economic and social endeavors coexisted in beneficial relationships within the black communities of cities that were the principal destinations of black migrants from the South in the early twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Boyd, Robert L., 2012. "The organization of an ethnic economy: Urban black communities in the early twentieth century," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 633-641.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:41:y:2012:i:5:p:633-641
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2012.05.017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. William Tabb, 1979. "What happened to black economic development?," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 392-415, June.
    2. Ingham, John N., 2003. "Building Businesses, Creating Communities: Residential Segregation and the Growth of African American Business in Southern Cities, 1880–1915," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(04), pages 639-665, December.
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    More about this item


    Ethnic economies; Black entrepreneurs; Urban centers; Early 20th century U.S.;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N82 - Economic History - - Micro-Business History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-


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