Slavery and Information
Journal of Economic History 2013
36 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2011 Last revised: 11 Feb 2013
Date Written: September 26, 2011
This article shows how asymmetric information shaped slavery by determining the likelihood of manumission. A theoretical model explains how the master’s decision to free (or, more generally, to reward) a slave was motivated by the need to provide incentives for slaves working in occupations characterized by a high degree of asymmetric information. The model’s implications are then tested against the available evidence:both in Rome and in the Atlantic world, slaves with high-asymmetric-information tasks had greater chances of manumission. The analysis also sheds light on the master’s choices of carrots versus sticks and of labor versus slavery.
Keywords: slavery, manumission, carrot, stick
JEL Classification: K00, N00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation