Wealth, Slaveownership, and Fighting for the Confederacy: An Empirical Study of the American Civil War


How did personal wealth and slaveownership affect the likelihood Southerners fought for the ConfederateArmyinthe American CivilWar?Onthe one hand, wealthy Southerners hadincentives to free-ride on poorer Southerners and avoid fighting; on the other hand, wealthy Southerners were disproportionately slaveowners, and thus had more at stake in the outcome of the war. We assemble a dataset on roughly 3.9 million free citizens in the Confederacy and show that slaveowners were more likely to fight than non-slaveowners. We then exploit a randomized land lottery held in 1832 in Georgia. Households of lottery winners owned more slaves in 1850 and were more likely to have sons who fought in the Confederate Army. We conclude that slaveownership, in contrast to some other kinds of wealth, compelled Southerners to fight despite free-rider incentives because it raised their stakes in the war’s outcome.

American Political Science Review 113(3):658-673
Andrew B. Hall
Andrew B. Hall
Professor of Political Science

Professor of Political Science at Stanford University