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Forging a New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen

Dora Costa and Matthew Kahn ()

The Journal of Economic History, 2006, vol. 66, issue 4, 936-962

Abstract: By the end of the Civil War 186,017 black men had served in the Union Army, roughly three-quarters of whom were former slaves. Because most black soldiers were illiterate farm workers, the war exposed them to a much broader world. Their wartime experience depended upon their peers, their commanding officers, and where their regiment toured and affected their later life outcomes. In the short run the combat units benefited from company homogeneity, which built social capital and minimized shirking, but in the long run men's human capital and acquisition of information was best improved by serving in heterogeneous companies.

Date: 2006
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