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The Political Legacy of American Slavery

Avidit Acharya (), Matthew Blackwell and Maya Sen
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Matthew Blackwell: Harvard University
Maya Sen: Harvard University

Working Paper Series from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government

Abstract: We show that contemporary differences in political attitudes across counties in the American South trace their origins to slavery's prevalence more than 150 years ago. Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action policies, and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks. These results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of racial threat. To explain these results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of racial attitudes. We argue that, following the Civil War, Southern whites faced political and economic incentives to reinforce racist norms and institutions. This produced racially conservative political attitudes, which in turn have been passed down locally across generations. Our results challenge the interpretation of a vast literature on racial attitudes in the American South.

JEL-codes: N32 N91 O17 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014-12
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-evo, nep-gro, nep-his, nep-pke, nep-pol and nep-soc
References: View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (39) Track citations by RSS feed

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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp14-057

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