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The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War

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  • Philipp Ager
  • Leah Platt Boustan
  • Katherine Eriksson

Abstract

The nullification of slave wealth after the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compressions in history. We document that white Southern households holding more slave assets in 1860 lost substantially more wealth by 1870, relative to households that had been equally wealthy before the war. Yet, the sons of former slaveholders recovered relative to comparable sons by 1900, and grandsons surpassed their counterparts in educational and occupational attainment by 1940. We find that social networks facilitated this recovery, with sons marrying into other former slaveholding families. Transmission of entrepreneurship and skills appear less central.

Suggested Citation

  • Philipp Ager & Leah Platt Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2019. "The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners After the Civil War," NBER Working Papers 25700, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25700
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    Cited by:

    1. Bertocchi, Graziella & Dimico, Arcangelo, 2020. "Bitter Sugar: Slavery and the Black Family," GLO Discussion Paper Series 564, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Melissa Rubio-Ramos, 2022. "From Plantations to Prisons: The Race Gap in Incarceration After the Abolition of Slavery in the U.S," ECONtribute Discussion Papers Series 195, University of Bonn and University of Cologne, Germany.
    3. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Gobillon, Laurent & Zylberberg, Yanos, 2022. "Urban economics in a historical perspective: Recovering data with machine learning," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    4. Bellani, Luna & Hager, Anselm & Maurer, Stephan E., 2022. "The Long Shadow of Slavery: The Persistence of Slave Owners in Southern Lawmaking," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 82(1), pages 250-283, March.
    5. Zachary Ward, 2019. "Intergenerational Mobility in American History: Accounting for Race and Measurement Error," CEH Discussion Papers 10, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
    6. Diana Moreira & Santiago Pérez, 2022. "Who Benefits from Meritocracy?," NBER Working Papers 30113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Ekama, Kate & Fourie, Johan & Heese, Hans & Martin, Lisa-Cheree, 2021. "When Cape slavery ended: Introducing a new slave emancipation dataset," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    8. Alberto Alesina & Marlon Seror & David Y. Yang & Yang You & Weihong Zeng, 2020. "Persistence through Revolutions," Working Papers DT/2020/09, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    9. Philipp Ager & Leah Boustan & Katherine Eriksson, 2021. "The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners after the Civil War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 111(11), pages 3767-3794, November.
    10. Bautista, M. A. & Gonzalez, F & Martinez, L. R & Muñoz, P & Prem, M, 2022. "The Intergenerational Transmission of College: Evidence from the 1973 Coup in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 020503, Universidad del Rosario.
    11. Tyler Anbinder & Dylan Connor & Cormac Ó Gráda & Simone Wegge, 2021. "The Problem of False Positives in Automated Census Linking: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century New York's Irish Immigrants," Working Papers 202114, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    12. Alberto F. Alesina & Marlon Seror & David Y. Yang & Yang You & Weihong Zeng, 2020. "Persistence Despite Revolutions," NBER Working Papers 27053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Elisa Jácome & Ilyana Kuziemko & Suresh Naidu, 2021. "Mobility for All: Representative Intergenerational Mobility Estimates over the 20th Century," Working Papers 302, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    14. Esposito, Elena & Rotesi, Tiziano & Saia, Alessandro & Thoenig, Mathias, 2021. "Reconciliation Narratives: The Birth of a Nation after the US Civil War," CEPR Discussion Papers 15938, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    15. Dupraz, Yannick & Ferrara, Andreas, 2021. "Fatherless: The Long-Term Effects of Losing a Father in the U.S. Civil War," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 538, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    16. James Feigenbaum & James Lee & Filippo Mezzanotti, 2022. "Capital Destruction and Economic Growth: The Effects of Sherman's March, 1850–1920," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 301-342, October.
    17. Graziella Bertocchi & Arcangelo Dimico, 2020. "Bitter Sugar: Slavery and the Black Family," Department of Economics 0172, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    18. Dupont, Brandon & Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 2020. "Wealth Mobility in the 1860s," ISU General Staff Papers 202009180700001112, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    19. Dionissi Aliprantis & Daniel R. Carroll & Eric R. Young, 2019. "The Dynamics of the Racial Wealth Gap," Working Papers 19-18R, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, revised 29 Nov 2022.
    20. Combes, Pierre-Philippe & Gobillon, Laurent & Zylberberg, Yanos, 2022. "Urban economics in a historical perspective: Recovering data with machine learning," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(C).
    21. William J. Collins & Ariell Zimran, 2019. "Working Their Way Up? US Immigrants' Changing Labor Market Assimilation in the Age of Mass Migration," NBER Working Papers 26414, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    JEL classification:

    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion
    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913

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