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Slavery, Inequality, and Economic Development in the Americas: An Examination of the Engerman-Sokoloff Hypothesis

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  • Nunn, Nathan

Abstract

Recent research argues that among former New World colonies a nation's past dependence on slave labor was important for its subsequent economic development (Engerman and Sokoloff, 1997, 2002, 2006; Sokoloff and Engerman, 2000). These studies argue that specialization in plantation agriculture based on slave labor caused economic inequality, which concentrated power in the hands of a small elite, adversely affecting the development of domestic institutions needed for sustained economic growth. I test for these relationships looking both across former New World economies and across states and counties within the U.S. I find evidence that slave use is negatively correlated with subsequent economic development. However, I do not find evidence that this negative relationship is driven by large scale plantation slavery, or that the relationship works through slavery’s effect on economic inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "Slavery, Inequality, and Economic Development in the Americas: An Examination of the Engerman-Sokoloff Hypothesis," MPRA Paper 4080, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:4080
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/5869/2/MPRA_paper_5869.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Daron Acemoglu & María Angélica Bautista & Pablo Querubín & James A. Robinson, 2007. "Economic and Political Inequality in Development: The Case of Cundinamarca, Colombia," NBER Working Papers 13208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Mitchener, Kris James & McLean, Ian W, 2003. "The Productivity of US States since 1880," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 73-114, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Graziella Bertocchi, 2011. "Growth, Colonization, and Institutional Development. In and Out of Africa," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 064, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics "Marco Biagi".
    2. Jan Luiten van Zanden, 2011. "In Good Company: About Agency and Economic Development in Global Perspective," Working Papers 23/2011, Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics.
    3. Erdogdu, Erkan, 2013. "A cross-country analysis of electricity market reforms: Potential contribution of New Institutional Economics," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 239-251.
    4. William F. Maloney & Felipe Valencia Caicedo, 2012. "The Persistence of (Subnational) Fortune: Geography, Agglomeration, and Institutions in the New World," DOCUMENTOS CEDE 010017, UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General

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