Spillovers to Slavery: The Long and Short Run Economic Impacts of Slavery in the USA

This research project constructs new measures of slavery as a state-sanctioned property rights institution and documents how slavery impacted economic development in US history.

Slavery was central to US economic history and political development. It is often argued that coercive institutions which limit freedom are inimical to economic efficiency. Yet research documenting the efficiency of slavery in agriculture was a crowning achievement for neoclassical economic history. The project uses historical data on the Underground Railroad and the operations of local courts to document the security of slave owners’ property rights at the local level. The project also estimates the effects pro-or-anti slavery institutions had on agricultural and manufacturing productivity, not just in the South but also in the North.