Abstract

How much do sins visited upon one generation harm that generation's future sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters? I study this question by comparing outcomes for former slaves and their children and grandchildren to outcomes for free blacks (pre-1865) and their children and grandchildren. The outcome measures include literacy, whether a child attends school, months spent in school, years of schooling, and two measures of adult occupation. Using a variety of different comparisons (for example, within versus across regions) I find that it took roughly two generations for the descendants of slaves to catch up to the descendants of free black men and women, for those outcomes that I observe. In other words, by 1920 the remaining legacy of slavery is such that all blacks are affected equally, not just the actual descendants of slaves. There is some evidence that this convergence was facilitated by intermarriage among slave and free families. The finding of convergence is consistent with modern estimates and interpretations of father-son correlations in income and socioeconomic status. The data used are from the 1880, 1900, 1920, and 1940 1% IPUMS samples, and a 100% sample of the 1880 Census.

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