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RACE, DISEASE, AND THE PROVISION OF WATER IN AMERICAN CITIES, 1889–1921

Werner Troesken

The Journal of Economic History, 2001, vol. 61, issue 3, 750-776

Abstract: This article tests the claim that public water companies provided black communities with better service than did private water companies. It draws from three sources: typhoid fever rates in 1911 and 1921, waterborne disease rates in 14 North Carolina towns between 1889 and 1908, and investment patterns in cities with public and private water companies. A study of New Orleans, which municipalized its water system in 1908, complements the evidence that public ownership reduced white disease rates only slightly, but reduced black disease rates sharply. These surprising results have implications for contemporary policy debates and for understanding American history.

Date: 2001
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