Forging a New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen

34 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2004 Last revised: 6 Aug 2010

See all articles by Dora L. Costa

Dora L. Costa

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 2004

Abstract

By the end of the Civil War, 186,017 black men had fought for the Union Army and roughly three-quarters of these men were former slaves. Because most of the black soldiers who served were illiterate farm workers, the war exposed them to a much broader world. The war experience of these men depended upon their peers, their commanding officers, and where their regiment toured. These factors affected the later life outcomes of black slaves and freemen. This paper documents both the short run costs and long run benefits of participating in a diverse environment. In the short run the combat unit benefited from company homogeneity as this built social capital and minimized shirking, but in the long run men's human capital and aquisition of information was best served by fighting in heterogeneous companies.

Suggested Citation

Costa, Dora L. and Kahn, Matthew E., Forging a New Identity: The Costs and Benefits of Diversity in Civil War Combat Units for Black Slaves and Freemen (December 2004). NBER Working Paper No. w11013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=641066

Dora L. Costa (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

Box 951477
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Matthew E. Kahn

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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