Wealth, Officeholding, and Elite Ideology in Antebellum Georgia

35 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014 Last revised: 21 Sep 2015

See all articles by Jason Poulos

Jason Poulos

University of California, Berkeley, Students

Date Written: September 20, 2015


Does personal wealth translate into political power, and does it influence the ideology of officeholders? This paper investigates the role of personal wealth in politics using the 1805 Georgia land lottery as a natural experiment. Matching lottery records to a roster of officeholders and roll call votes, I estimate the effects of winning a land lot prize on ex-post officeholding, and on votes in favor of slavery legislation and state banking policy for participants who served in the state legislature. I find that lottery wealth significantly reduces legislators' support for slavery legislation, and find no evidence that wealth effects officeholding nor legislators' support for banking policy. I use property tax records to show that the treatment effect on support for slavery legislation varies systematically according legislators' pretreatment wealth. The results demonstrate that wealth can influence policy, but not in the direction anticipated by economic elite theories of American politics.

Keywords: American political history, American political economy, economic inequality, political inequality, natural experiment, randomization inference, machine learning

JEL Classification: N31, D72

Suggested Citation

Poulos, Jason, Wealth, Officeholding, and Elite Ideology in Antebellum Georgia (September 20, 2015). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2484037 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2484037

Jason Poulos (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley, Students ( email )

525 F. Haas School of Business
Berkeley, CA
United States

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