IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/vic/vicddp/1701.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Slaughter of the North American Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains

Author

Abstract

In the late-19th century, the North American Bison was slaughtered in a dramatic near-extinction episode that occurred in a period of just over ten years. We argue that the rapidity of this slaughter led to a “reversal of fortunes” for the Native American societies that were built on the bison. We exploit regional variation in the speed at which the bison were slaughtered and tribal variation in bison-dependence to show that bison-dependent Native American tribes suffered a significant change in living standards immediately after the bison's near-extinction, as measured by changes in height. Once the tallest people in the world, the generations of bison-dependent people born after the slaughter were amongst the shortest. We show that these effects persist into the present. Previously bison-dependent societies have persistently worse living conditions compared to the average Native American nation, with between 20-40% less income per capita today, and this effect is strongest among the least historically diverse economies. Our results are robust to the inclusion of cultural, colonial, and geographic factors and hold in both Canada and the United States. While the relative living conditions of historically bison-dependent nations improved modestly between 1910 and 2010, as measured by standardized occupational rank, outcomes remain lower than non-bison-dependent nations, particularly for those living on Native American reservations. We suggest that the restrictions on mobility and economic diversification that were placed on Native Americans by federal Indian policy during the 19th and 20th centuries likely hampered the ability of these economies to adjust in the long-run.

Suggested Citation

  • Donna Feir & Rob Gillezeau & Maggie Jones, 2017. "The Slaughter of the North American Bison and Reversal of Fortunes on the Great Plains," Department Discussion Papers 1701, Department of Economics, University of Victoria.
  • Handle: RePEc:vic:vicddp:1701
    Note: ISSN 1914-2838
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.uvic.ca/socialsciences/economics/assets/docs/discussion/DDP1701.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Nathan Nunn, 2009. "The Importance of History for Economic Development," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 65-92, May.
    2. Alberto Alesina & Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2016. "Ethnic Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 124(2), pages 428-488.
    3. Fernando M. Arag?n & Juan Pablo Rud, 2013. "Natural Resources and Local Communities: Evidence from a Peruvian Gold Mine," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 1-25, May.
    4. Richard Hornbeck, 2012. "The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(4), pages 1477-1507, June.
    5. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    6. Steckel, Richard H., 2010. "Inequality Amidst Nutritional Abundance: Native Americans on the Great Plains," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(02), pages 265-286, June.
    7. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
    8. repec:hrv:faseco:33077825 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    10. Terry L. Anderson & Dominic P. Parker, 2008. "Sovereignty, Credible Commitments, and Economic Prosperity on American Indian Reservations," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(4), pages 641-666, November.
    11. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2011. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence From A Historical Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 593-650.
    12. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
    13. Joseph M. Prince & Richard H. Steckel, 2001. "Tallest in the World: Native Americans of the Great Plains in the Nineteenth Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 287-294, March.
    14. Akee, Randall & Jorgensen, Miriam & Sunde, Uwe, 2015. "Critical junctures and economic development – Evidence from the adoption of constitutions among American Indian Nations," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(4), pages 844-861.
    15. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 2012. "Smallpox and Native American mortality: The 1780s epidemic in the Hudson Bay region," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 277-290.
    16. Philip Oreopoulos & Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "The Intergenerational Effects of Worker Displacement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(3), pages 455-483, July.
    17. Allen, Robert C. & Keay, Ian, 2004. "Saving the Whales: Lessons from the Extinction of the Eastern Arctic Bowhead," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 400-432, June.
    18. Hurst, Michael, 1997. "The determinants of earnings differentials for indigenous Americans: Human capital, location, or discrimination?," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 787-807.
    19. repec:hrv:faseco:33077824 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Grant D. Jacobsen & Dominic P. Parker, 2016. "The Economic Aftermath of Resource Booms: Evidence from Boomtowns in the American West," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(593), pages 1092-1128, June.
    21. Hoyt Bleakley & Jeffrey Lin, 2012. "Portage and Path Dependence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 587-644.
    22. Maxim Pinkovskiy & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2016. "Lights, Camera … Income! Illuminating the National Accounts-Household Surveys Debate," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 131(2), pages 579-631.
    23. J. Vernon Henderson & Adam Storeygard & David N. Weil, 2012. "Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(2), pages 994-1028, April.
    24. repec:eme:rehizz:s0363-3268(2014)0000030003 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294.
    26. Aragón, Fernando M., 2015. "Do better property rights improve local income?: Evidence from First Nations' treaties," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 43-56.
    27. Guy Michaels, 2011. "The Long Term Consequences of Resource‐Based Specialisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(551), pages 31-57, March.
    28. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 1993. "Indians, the Beaver, and the Bay: The Economics of Depletion in the Lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1700–1763," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 465-494, September.
    29. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, January.
    30. Randall K. Q. Akee & Katherine A. Spilde & Jonathan B. Taylor, 2015. "The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and Its Effects on American Indian Economic Development," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 185-208, Summer.
    31. Ann Carlos & Frank Lewis, 2010. "Property Rights, Standards of Living, and Economic Growth: Western Canadian Cree," Working Papers 1232, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    32. M. Scott Taylor, 2011. "Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3162-3195, December.
    33. Anderson, Terry L. & Parker, Dominic P., 2009. "Economic development lessons from and for North American Indian economies," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 53(1), pages 1-23.
    34. Hoyt Bleakley & Jeffrey Lin, 2010. "Portage: path dependence and increasing returns in U.S. history," Working Papers 10-27, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    35. Melissa Dell, 2010. "The Persistent Effects of Peru's Mining Mita," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(6), pages 1863-1903, November.
    36. Richard H. Steckel, 2008. "Biological Measures of the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 129-152, Winter.
    37. Carlos, Ann & Lewis, Frank, 2010. "Property Rights, Standards of Living, and Economic Growth: Western Canadian Cree," Queen's Economics Department Working Papers 273728, Queen's University - Department of Economics.
    38. Ann M. Carlos & Frank D. Lewis, 1999. "Property Rights, Competition and Depletion in the Eighteenth-Century Canadian Fur Trade: The Role of the European Market," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(3), pages 705-728, May.
    39. Decker, Jody F., 1991. "Depopulation of the Northern Plains Natives," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 381-393, January.
    40. Raj Chetty & Nathaniel Hendren & Patrick Kline & Emmanuel Saez, 2014. "Where is the land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 129(4), pages 1553-1623.
    41. John Komlos & Leonard Carlson, 2014. "The anthropometric history of Native Americans, C.1820–1890," Research in Economic History,in: Research in economic history, volume 30, pages 135-161 Emerald Publishing Ltd.
    42. Randall Akee, 2009. "Checkerboards and Coase: The Effect of Property Institutions on Efficiency in Housing Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 395-410, May.
    43. Stevens, Ann Huff, 1997. "Persistent Effects of Job Displacement: The Importance of Multiple Job Losses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 165-188, January.
    44. Lueck, Dean, 2002. "The Extermination and Conservation of the American Bison," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 609-652, June.
    45. repec:hrv:faseco:30750027 is not listed on IDEAS
    46. Hanner, John, 1981. "Government Response to the Buffalo Hide Trade, 1871-1883," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 239-271, October.
    47. Christian Dippel, 2014. "Forced Coexistence and Economic Development: Evidence From Native American Reservations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 2131-2165, November.
    48. Cornell, Stephen & Kalt, Joseph P., 2000. "Where's the glue? Institutional and cultural foundations of American Indian economic development," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 443-470.
    49. Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Stature and the Standard of Living," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(4), pages 1903-1940, December.
    50. Dave Donaldson & Adam Storeygard, 2016. "The View from Above: Applications of Satellite Data in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(4), pages 171-198, Fall.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Donna Feir & Rob Gillezeau & Maggie Jones, 2017. "Illuminating Economic Development in Indigenous Communities," Department Discussion Papers 1704, Department of Economics, University of Victoria.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    North American Bison; Buffalo; Extinction; Economic History; Development; Displacement; Native Americans; Indigenous; Income Shock; Intergenerational Mobility;

    JEL classification:

    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:vic:vicddp:1701. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Graham Voss). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/devicca.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.