Preserving Slave Families for Profit: Traders' Incentives and Pricing in the New Orleans Slave Market

Calomiris, Charles W.; Pritchett, Jonathan B.

We investigate determinants of slave family discounts in the New Orleans slave market. We find large price discounts for families unrelated to scale effects, childcare costs, legal restrictions, or transport costs. We posit that because family members voluntarily cared for each other, sellers sometimes found it advantageous to keep families together (when families included needy or dependent members). Evidence from ship manifests carrying slaves for sale in New Orleans provides direct evidence for selectivity bias in explaining slave family discounts. Children likely to have been shipped with their mothers are 1 to 2 inches shorter than other children.

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Journal of Economic History

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August 9, 2011