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American Indian Mortality in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Impact of Federal Assimilation Policies on a Vulnerable Population

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  • J. David Hacker
  • Michael R. Haines

Abstract

Under the urging of late nineteenth-century humanitarian reformers, U.S. policy toward American Indians shifted from removal and relocation efforts to state-sponsored attempts to "civilize" Indians through allotment of tribal lands, citizenship, and forced education. There is little consensus, however, whether and to what extent federal assimilation efforts played a role in the stabilization and recovery of the American Indian population in the twentieth century. In this paper, we rely on a new IPUMS sample of the 1900 census of American Indians and census-based estimation methods to investigate the impact of federal assimilation policies on childhood mortality. We use children ever born and children surviving data included in the censuses to estimate childhood mortality and [responses to] several questions unique to the Indian enumeration [including tribal affiliation, degree of "white blood", type of dwelling, ability to speak English, and whether a citizen by allotment] to construct multivariate models of child mortality. The results suggest that mortality among American Indians in the late nineteenth century was very high - approximately 62% [standardize as % or percent throughout] higher than that for the white population. The impact of assimilation policies was mixed. Increased ability to speak English was associated with lower child mortality, while allotment of land in severalty was associated with higher mortality. The combined effect was a very modest four percent [as above] decline in mortality. As of 1900, the government campaign to assimilate Indians had yet to result in a significant decline in Indian mortality while incurring substantial economic and cultural costs.

Suggested Citation

  • J. David Hacker & Michael R. Haines, 2006. "American Indian Mortality in the Late Nineteenth Century: The Impact of Federal Assimilation Policies on a Vulnerable Population," NBER Working Papers 12572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12572 Note: DAE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, January.
    2. Leet, Don R., 1976. "The Determinants of the Fertility Transition in Antebellum Ohio," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(02), pages 359-378, June.
    3. Sundstrom, William A. & David, Paul A., 1988. "Old-age security motives, labor markets, and farm family fertility in antebellum American," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 164-197, April.
    4. Easterlin, Richard A., 1976. "Population Change and Farm Settlement in the Northern United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(01), pages 45-75, March.
    5. Michael R. Haines, 1996. "Long Term Marriage Patterns in the United States from Colonial Times tothe Present," NBER Historical Working Papers 0080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Michael R. Haines, 1994. "Estimated Life Tables for the United States, 1850-1900," NBER Historical Working Papers 0059, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ioana M. PETRESCU, 2016. "The Humanitarian Impact Of Economic Sanctions," Europolity – Continuity and Change in European Governance - New Series, Department of International Relations and European Integration, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, vol. 10(2), pages 1-41.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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