The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners after the Civil War

63 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 22 Mar 2021

See all articles by Philipp Ager

Philipp Ager

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Leah Platt Boustan

Princeton University

Katherine Eriksson

University of California, Davis

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Date Written: March 2019

Abstract

The nullification of slave wealth after the U.S. Civil War (1861-65) was one of the largest episodes of wealth compressions in history. We document that white Southern households holding more slave assets in 1860 lost substantially more wealth by 1870, relative to households that had been equally wealthy before the war. Yet, the sons of former slaveholders recovered relative to comparable sons by 1900, and grandsons surpassed their counterparts in educational and occupational attainment by 1940. We find that social networks facilitated this recovery, with sons marrying into other former slaveholding families. Transmission of entrepreneurship and skills appear less central.

Suggested Citation

Ager, Philipp and Boustan, Leah Platt and Eriksson, Katherine, The Intergenerational Effects of a Large Wealth Shock: White Southerners after the Civil War (March 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25700, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3363436

Philipp Ager (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

DK-5230 Odense
Denmark

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

London
United Kingdom

Leah Platt Boustan

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Katherine Eriksson

University of California, Davis ( email )

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