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Babes in Bondage Parental Selling of Children to Finance Family Migration: The Case of German Migration to North America, 1720-1820

Listed author(s):
  • Farley Grubb


    (Department of Economics, University of Delaware)

The existence and extent of intra-family debt shifting via selling children into bondage among German immigrant families to North America is documented using quantitative ship manifest and servant auction data. This evidence is at odds with the standard description presented in the literature based on literary sources. Market competition created the opening and colonial welfare laws drove German immigrant parents into selling their children into bondage to finance their own (the parents’) migration, but only for children within a particular and narrow age range. German immigrant parents did not callously treat their children as investment goods.

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Paper provided by University of Delaware, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 03-04.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 2003
Publication status: Published in Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 37, no. 1 (Summer, 2006), pp. 1-34.
Handle: RePEc:dlw:wpaper:03-04
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  1. Grubb, Farley, 1988. "The Auction of Redemptioner Servants, Philadelphia, 1771–1804: An Economic Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(03), pages 583-603, September.
  2. Grubb, Farley, 1987. "Colonial immigrant literacy: An economic analysis of Pennsylvania-German evidence, 1727-1775," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 63-76, January.
  3. Grubb, Farley, 1994. "The End of European Immigrant Servitude in the United States: An Economic Analysis of Market Collapse, 1772–1835," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(04), pages 794-824, December.
  4. Grubb, Farley, 1985. "The Market for Indentured Immigrants: Evidence on the Efficiency of Forward-Labor Contracting in Philadelphia, 1745–1773," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(04), pages 855-868, December.
  5. Murray, John E. & Herndon, Ruth Wallis, 2002. "Markets For Children In Early America: A Political Economy Of Pauper Apprenticeship," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 62(02), pages 356-382, June.
  6. Grubb, Farley, 1985. "The incidence of servitude in trans-Atlantic migration, 1771-1804," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 316-339, July.
  7. Grubb, Farley, 1992. "Educational Choice in the Era Before Free Public Schooling: Evidence from German Immigrant Children in Pennsylvania, 1771–1817," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 363-375, June.
  8. Grubb, Farley, 1986. "Redemptioner Immigration to Pennsylvania: Evidence on Contract Choice and Profitability," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(02), pages 407-418, June.
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