Were Free Southern Farmers "Driven to Indolence" by Slavery? A Stochastic Production Frontier Approach
Elizabeth B. Field-Hendre, Lee A. Craig
NBER Historical Working Paper No. 82
Antebellum critics of slavery argued that it was responsible for the relative inefficiency of free southern farms. We examine this issue, employing a stochastic production function, which allows us to distinguish between technological superiority and technical inefficiency, and controlling for crop mix, which we treat as endogenous. We find that although large plantations enjoyed a technological advantage, slave farms were less efficient than free northern farms but more efficient than free southern farms. In addition, free southern farms were significantly less efficient than comparable northern farms.