Fighting to keep your slaves

How did personal wealth affect the likelihood southerners fought for the Confederate Army in
the American Civil War? We offer competing accounts for how we should expect individual
wealth, in the form of land, and atrociously, in slaves, to affect white men’s decisions to join the Confederate Army. We assemble a dataset on roughly 3.9 million white citizens in Confederate states, and we show that slaveowners were more likely to fight in the Confederate Army than non-slaveowners. To see if these links are causal, we exploit a randomized land lottery in 19thcentury Georgia. Households of lottery winners owned more slaves in 1850 and were more likely to have sons who fought in the Confederate Army than were households who did not win the lottery. Our results suggest that for wealthy southerners, the stakes associated with the conflict’s threat to end the institution of slavery overrode the incentives to free-ride and to avoid paying the costs of war.

That is the abstract of a new paper by Andrew B. Hall, Connor Huff, and Shiro Kuriwaki, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


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