How and to what degree did slavery shape the reach of the American state? Building on existing literatures, I develop and test the hypothesis that slavery shaped the development of the American welfare state by creating highly labor coercive societies. To test the argument, I focus on the New Deal period of the United States — one of the largest expansions of the American state in American history — as a window into understanding the link between labor coercion and redistribution. I assemble a dataset using historical census data combined with detailed, program-by-county level New Deal spending data across the U.S. South and use an instrumental variables identification strategy to establish causality. Results show strong evidence for the argument and hypothesized mechanism. These results indicate the importance of interaction between history, local politics, and national state expansion.
Journal of Historical Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 3 Special Issue - Slavery and Its Legacies: Articles Overview
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.