Legacy of slavery in the United States: a few readings and perspectives

Heather O’Connell and Robert Reece find sizable correlation of extent of slavery with public school enrollment and attendance in the present (see summary here):

Drawing from our regression analysis, we argue that slavery history shaped the local social structure in a way that facilitates contemporary white disinvestment from public school systems. We examine two potential explanations for this legacy of slavery—the number of private schools and racial threat—particularly their manifestation within the Deep South. Despite evidence of subregional differences rooted in history, neither pathway explains the initial slavery association. We argue that processes tied to the legacy of slavery are a foundational component of black disadvantage and that further examination of this foundation is necessary to stem the tide of recent resegregation.

And slave counties had considerably slower decline in a major public health outcome, heart disease mortality, according to a multi-author study:

Nearly 50 years of declining heart disease mortality is a major public health success, but one marked by uneven progress by place and race. At the county level, progress in heart disease mortality reduction among Blacks is associated with place-based historical legacy of slavery. Effective and equitable public health prevention efforts should consider the historical context of place and the social and economic institutions that may play a role in facilitating or impeding diffusion of prevention efforts thereby producing heart healthy places and populations.


Glenn Loury back in 1998 had many interesting things to say on the issue. An example from his essay, provocative to some but to others almost banal in its reasonableness:

A social scientist of any sophistication recognizes that societies are not amalgams of unrelated individuals creating themselves anew–out of whole cloth, as it were–in each generation. A complex web of social connections and a long train of historical influences interact to form the opportunities and shape the outlooks of individuals. Of course, individual effort is important, as is native talent and sheer luck, for determining how well or poorly a person does in life. But social background, cultural affinities, and communal influence are also of great significance. This is the grain of truth in the conservatives’ insistence that cultural differences lie at the root of racial inequality in America. But the deeper truth is that, for some three centuries now, the communal experience of the slaves and their descendants has been shaped by political, social, and economic institutions that, by any measure, must be seen as oppressive.

More regression analysis from Acharya, Blackwell and Sen:

We show that contemporary differences in political attitudes across counties in the American South trace their origins to slavery’s prevalence more than 150 years ago. Whites who currently live in Southern counties that had high shares of slaves in 1860 are more likely to identify as a Republican, oppose affirmative action policies,and express racial resentment and colder feelings toward blacks. These results cannot be explained by existing theories, including the theory of racial threat. To explain the results, we offer evidence for a new theory involving the historical persistence of racial attitudes. We argue that, following the Civil War, Southern whites faced political and economic incentives to reinforce racist norms and institutions. This produced racially conservative political attitudes, which in turn have been passed down locally across generations. Our results challenge the interpretation of a vast literature on racial attitudes in the American South.

Posted in Burkina Faso, United States | Leave a comment

Sexual harassment in factories in Indonesia: extraordinary short documentary

Posted in Gender

Tariffs and trade wars, some comments

We are having an informal Civil Society Institute discussion on the tariffs and trade war issue this week, so I  thought I would do a little round-up.

My friend Tom Prusa summarizes some of the basics for a New Jersey television program: “Are people going to lose jobs? You cannot have the type of protection that are being announced and now being implemented without loss of jobs. This is almost unprecedented, the level of tariffs that not just the United States, but other countries are currently now ready to apply.”

Tom may have overlooked one job creation bright spot: “As of Thursday afternoon, the department had received more than 10,000 applications to exclude certain products from the tariffs. Earlier this month, a Commerce spokesperson told Marketplace it has expanded its staff from six people to 19 to process the applications. Officials did not respond to a request for more details about the qualifications of those staffers.”

The irony should not be lost: the party of deregulation is creating a regulatory tariff structure where the often arbitrary decisions of bureaucrats makes private enterprise more or less profitable. Reason.com is all over that aspect of the trade wars.

Economists predict at their peril: June 1: ““I do think this throws a wrench into the NAFTA negotiations and find it very unlikely that they’re going to conclude positively any time soon,” said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.” October 1: New trade agreement announced.

Much discussion about soybeans since they matter for politics (because small-population farm states have so much overrepresentation in the Senate):

Soybean Prices – 45 Year Historical Chart


As can see, despite recent falls in prices, soybean prices are still at hostoric highs. “Don’t cry for me soybean farmers…”

Posted in Teaching international trade, Teaching macroeconomics

Photo of readers in Sheigu library in Upper East, #Ghana

reading in library sm

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Some recent news on the American economy

The Census Bureau a couple of weeks ago released an update on the U.S. economy for 2017. The headline was that real median household income had increased by 2.6 percent, and was about $61,000, and the poverty rate was 12.3%. The poverty line for a family of four with two children under 18 is about $25,000. (The New York Times defines an “affordable” seaside getaway as costing about $500 a night, so there is room for disagreement on what constitutes poverty.)

Median Household Income[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Note: A Brookings commentary suggests viewing the Census report, based on responses to surveys, with caution, since the quality of survey measures in general has been declining as Americans are less likely to respond.

If you think that improving health insurance coverage is a good measure of progress in constructing a society of equal opportunity for all, where people can afford to be more entrepreneurial because they will have insurance against serious illness, then this graphic suggests the country has been moving in the right direction.

Population Without Health Insurance Coverage[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

The one area probably that worries economists the most about the U.S. economy is persisting low (relative the pre-2007) prime-age participation in the labor market. One study by the San Francisco Fed staff suggested that this decline was mostly “attributable to the disappearance of manual labor positions in manufacturing and other industries…”. The study concludes on a pessimistic note:

Moreover, as the job market has evolved and some labor force participants have dropped out, other long-term economic and social trends have reinforced low participation rates among prime-age individuals. As discussed in Abraham and Kearney (2018), these factors include the rise in disability claims and other indicators of poor health (such as opioid abuse), an increasing fraction of individuals (primarily men) with prison records, and improvements in the availability and quality of leisure pursuits, such as online gaming; these factors are also discussed in Board of Governors (2018) and CBO (2018).

Posted in Burkina Faso, United States

Good interview regarding recent dozo- koglwéogo confrontation in Karangasso-Vigué in #Burkina Faso

Le 12 septembre dernier, des affrontements ont éclaté à Karangasso-Vigué, causant la mort du fils aîné du chef de canton et de deux koglwéogo. Dites-nous ce qui a bien pu conduire à un tel drame.Yacouba Drabo (Y.D.) : Avant d’entrer dans le vif du sujet, permettez-moi de présenter mes sincères condoléances à la grande famille des dozo du Burkina et d’Afrique, particulièrement au dozo-bâ [grand dozo, en langue dioula], chef de Karangasso-Vigué, Bamory. Pour revenir à votre question, je dirai qu’il y a toujours eu une incompréhension entre dozo et koglwéogo. Il y a longtemps que nous avons essayé de faire comprendre aux koglwéogo que nous ne pouvons pas cohabiter.

Source: Relations dozo- koglwéogo : « Qu’on ne nous provoque pas », prévient maître Yacouba Drabo, chef de la confrérie des dozo – leFaso.net, l’actualité au Burkina Faso

Posted in Burkina Faso

Loyola University New Orleans student newspaper article on Jesuit presidents

Despite the shift in lay presidents, Dziak said that the men and women taking over these leadership positions were not chosen on a whim. They are qualified to represent these schools and that there is no lack of qualification or respect for the Jesuit mission.“Many Jesuits today are moving into other disciplines than administration and it is a numbers game,” Dziak said, “we will pick the person most qualified, and if that person happens to be lay, then so be it.”Along with Loyola’s new president’s outstanding qualifications, many other universities hold their leadership to similar qualification standards. Georgetown University in Washington D.C.’s president, John J. DeGioia, worked as an administrator and teacher at Georgetown before taking office. Like Tetlow, DeGioia was familiar with the university and its Jesuit values.

Source: Jesuit universities slowly losing Jesuit presidents – The Maroon

Posted in Burkina Faso