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
Date Written: March 2019
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.
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