PE Research Seminar: Lukas Althoff

The Geography of Black Economic Progress After Slavery (JMP)
Oct 6, 2022, 12:15 pm1:30 pm


Event Description

This paper studies the long-run impact of racially oppressive institutions, finding that Black Americans’ socioeconomic status today is lower than that of white Americans in large part due to the US’s history of slavery and Jim Crow. We overcome the challenge of measuring each Black family’s historical exposure to slavery and Jim Crow by tracing their records from 1850 to 2000. First, we document that Black families who were enslaved until 1865 continue have considerably lower education, income, and wealth. Second, we show this persistence is entirely driven by post-slavery oppression under Jim Crow. We use a regression discontinuity design that compares the outcomes of families who were freed across state borders with more or less stringent Jim Crow laws, finding that states with more oppressive regimes sharply reduced Black economic progress in the long run. Using quasi-experimental variation in access to schools, we show that the limited access to human capital under Jim Crow was key in perpetuating racial disparities after slavery.