One Kind of Freedom: Reconsidered (and Turbo Charged)

Roger L. Ransom, Richard Sutch

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 129
Issued in September 2000
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

Since One Kind of Freedom was published in 1977 there have been enormous advances in computer technology and statistical software, and an impressive expansion of micro-level historical data sets. In this essay we reconsider' our earlier findings on the consequences of emancipation in terms of what might be accomplished using the new technology, methods, and data. We employ the entire sample of 11,202 farms collected for the Southern Economic History Project not the sub-sample used to prepare 1KF. We revisit the question of declining production of foodstuffs, examining the data this time on a farm-by-farm basis. We conclude that 30 percent of farms in the cotton regions were locked-in' to cotton production and another 16 percent were producing too much food in an effort to avoid the trap of debt peonage. Using probit methods to control for the effects of age, farm size, literacy, family workers, and willingness to assume risk, we find that race accounts for two-thirds of the gap between black and white ownership of farms. Comparing sharecropping and renting, we find that race was much less of a factor in tenure choice. We note that these efforts only scratch the surface of what remains to be done.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0129

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