Vol. 4, Issue 5 (2018)
The economic geography and race of the land, property & wealth owners in the United States, 1850-70
Author(s): James E Curtis Jr
Abstract: The debate over market/individual regulation and freedom is not a new discussion. However, a clear understanding of the freedoms (or the lack of freedoms) and their economic consequences on early black Americans provides an informative understanding to the freedoms (or the lack of freedoms), and their economic consequences on other, modern ethnic groups. Leon Litwick (1961) and Ira Berlin (1974) provide the most comprehensive historical accounts of free blacks in the north and south, respectively. This study attempts to build upon their successes by presenting one of the first national studies that combines the legal, demographic and economic experiences of free blacks, with an extended analysis of antebellum wealth inequality. In doing so, I investigate the link between the social asymmetry and economic asymmetry among early blacks and whites in the United States of America. For the empirical study, I used cross-sectional variables from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Sample (IPUMS), I developed informative conditional ratios, and I employ least squares statistical analyses. This study finds that economic differences among ethnic groups, as measured by differences between early blacks and whites, are intertwined with asymmetrical freedoms. This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant SES 0096414. I would like to thank John Ham, Richard Steckel, Randall Olson, and Bruce Weinberg for their insightful comments. I would also like to thank participants in workshops and seminars at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, Howard University in Washington, DC, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, American Economic Association Pipeline Conference in Austin, TX, Western Economic Association International Meetings in San Francisco, CA, and the Social Science History Association meetings in Chicago, IL. Additionally, I would like to thank the department of economics at the Ohio State University for their generous financial support. This is a revision of a November 2002 draft and a November 2010 working paper.