Slavery and the Intergenerational Transmission of Human Capital: Accounting for Skin-Color Differences

Marcos A. Rangel, University of Chicago
Aaron Danielson, University of Chicago

Racial differences in socioeconomic achievement are commonplace in the United States. Most contemporary observers attribute these differences to a combination of discrimination in the labor market and socioeconomic handicap imposed by slavery and other historical institutions. Discrimination portends to be an issue every time equally skilled individuals are treated differently by prospective employers, while slavery may play a role if the intergenerational transmission of human capital is strongly auto-correlated within the family. In order to better understand the intergenerational transmission process, we investigate the impact of the 19th century slavery abolition on the economic progress of African American families. We examine how many generations are needed for people in separated groups (free blacks versus slaves) to converge in terms of socioeconomic outcomes after institutional barriers are lifted. We detail our analysis exploring differences within the non-white population that can be associated to complexion/skin-color.

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Presented in Session 80: Racial and Ethnic Differentials in Nineteenth Century Demographic Behavior