The Long-Term Effect of Slavery on Violent Crime: Evidence from US Counties
60 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2013 Last revised: 14 Oct 2017
Date Written: October 14, 2017
This study investigates the long-term relationship between slavery and violence in the USA. Although considerable qualitative evidence suggests that slavery has been a key factor behind the prevalence of violence, especially in Southern USA, there has been no large-N study supporting this claim so far. Using county-level data for the USA, we find that the proportion of slaves in the population in 1860 is associated with significantly higher rates of violent crime in all census years for the period 1970-2000. This relationship is robust to including state fixed effects, controlling for numerous historical and contemporary factors, as well as to instrumenting for slavery using environmental conditions. We consider three channels of transmission between slavery and violent crime: inequality, a culture of violence, and ethnic fractionalization/segregation. Although we find some evidence supporting inequality and culture as a channel, results based on data for the year 2000 suggest that ethnic fractionalization/segregation is the most important mediator.
Keywords: Slavery, crime, inequality, culture, fractionalization, segregation, violence, US South
JEL Classification: J15, J71, K42, N31, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation