NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Shame and Ostracism: Union Army Deserters Leave Home

Dora L. Costa, Matthew E. Kahn

NBER Working Paper No. 10425
Issued in April 2004
NBER Program(s):   DAE

During the Civil War not all men served honorably and this was known by everyone in their communities. We study how shame and ostracism affect behavior by examining whether men who deserted from the Union Army, and who faced no legal sanctions once the war was over, returned home or whether they moved and re-invented themselves. We build a unique panel data set that provides us with a control group for deserters because we can identify men who deserted but then returned to fight with their companies. We find that, compared to non-deserters and returned deserters, deserters were more likely to move both out of state and further distances. This effect was stronger for deserters from pro-war communities. When deserters moved they were more likely to move to anti-war states than non-deserters. Our study provides a rare test of the empirical implications of emotion. While both shame and ostracism would push deserters out of their home community, we find no evidence that deserters faced economic sanctions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w10425

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