Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks Before World War I: Commentand Further Evidence

Robert A. Margo

NBER Working Paper No. 1200
Issued in September 1983
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

The pace and pattern of wealth accumulation by Southern blacks in the period before World War I is of central importance to the historical evolution of black/white income differences. This paper extends recent work by Robert Higgs, who used data on assessed wealth for Georgia to study the temporal and cross-sectional variation in black wealth accumulation during the post-bellum era. Using similar data for five additional states, I show that one of Higgs' principal conclusions -- measured by tax assessments, blacks accumulated wealth more rapidly than whites -- is a general finding, but that the cross-sectional determinants of black wealth appear to have varied markedly across states. Issues of assessment ratio bias are also considered, and using data for one state, I demonstrate that failure to account for intrastate and race differences in assessment ratios may bias the cross-sectional findings and significantly overstate the true relative (black/white) growth rate of black wealth.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1200

Published: Margo, Robert A. "Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks Before World War I: Comment and Further Evidence," American Economic Review, Vol. 74, No. 4, 1984, pp. 768-776. citation courtesy of

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