Slavery depresses long-run development

Finding Eldorado: Slavery and Long-run Development in Colombia, Daron Acemoglu, Camilo García-Jimeno, James A. Robinson
Slavery has been a major institution of labor coercion throughout history. Colonial societies used slavery intensively across the Americas, and slavery remained prevalent in most countries after independence from the European powers. We investigate the impact of slavery on long-run development in Colombia. Our identification strategy compares municipalities that had gold mines during the 17th and 18th centuries to neighboring municipalities without gold mines. Gold mining was a major source of demand for slave labor during colonial times, and all colonial gold mines are now depleted. We find that the historical presence of slavery is associated with increased poverty and reduced school enrollment, vaccination coverage and public good provision. We also find that slavery is associated with higher contemporary land inequality.

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4 Responses to Slavery depresses long-run development

  1. Dan says:

    This supports Andre Gunder Frank’s ‘Development of Underdevelopment’ thesis.

  2. Pedro says:

    I’m sure I’ve read of research showing the same about the north and south of the US.

  3. Tel says:

    I would go one step further and say that any time the person with tools in their hands is divorced from:
    [A] control of the workflow and identifying problems & improvements, and
    [B] incentives (i.e. pay, reward) directly linked to use of their labour;
    then you are going to have a serious development problem. No incentive and no direct control, means the “why bother” mentality rapidly closes in. In extreme cases it just comes down to a self preservation situation: avoid the whip, cheat if you have to, abandon any serious attempt at productivity.

    Slavery is one of many ways to end up in this dead-end, socialism is another, oppressive dead-head corporate management with monopoly powers is another, fixed and stratified class society is yet another. I’m sure there are more.

  4. Katz says:

    Slavery in Colombia was abolished long ago. The offspring of these slaves have chosen to remain in municipalities that host depleted gold mines. The reasons for this choice may have little to do with the now defunct slave system.

    Most, though not all, slave states of the US are undoubtedly poorer than most free states. Certainly, Jim Crow delayed the upward economical mobility of the offspring of slaves. But can the institution of Jim Crow be blamed on the prior existence slavery?

    Might the institution of slavery and Jim Crow and the marginalised existence of the offspring of Colombian slaves, who are of African origin, be ascribed to the much older phenomenon of racism? To take a example from the cited paper, fewer vaccinations may occur in ex-slave regions because these regions are full of Afro-Colombians.

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