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Start-up Nation? Slave Wealth and Entrepreneurship in Civil War Maryland

Felipe González, Guillermo Marshall, Suresh Naidu

NBER Working Paper No. 22483
Issued in August 2016
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

Slave property rights yielded a source of collateral as well as a coerced labor force. Using data from Dun and Bradstreet linked to the 1860 census and slave schedules in Maryland, we find that slaveowners were more likely to start businesses prior to the uncompensated 1864 emancipation, even conditional on total wealth and human capital, and this advantage disappears after emancipation. We assess a number of potential explanations, and find suggestive evidence that this is due to the superiority of slave wealth as a source of collateral for credit rather than any advantage in production. The collateral dimension of slave property magnifies its importance to historical American economic development.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22483

Published: Felipe González & Guillermo Marshall & Suresh Naidu, 2017. "Start-up Nation? Slave Wealth and Entrepreneurship in Civil War Maryland," The Journal of Economic History, vol 77(02), pages 373-405. citation courtesy of

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