Location of Repository

The Occupations of Slaves Sold in New Orleans: Missing Values, Cheap Talk, or Informative Advertising

By Jonathan Pritchett and Jessica Hayes

Abstract

Although plantation records indicate that many slaves in the southern United States were artisans and craftsmen, relatively few slaves were recorded as such on the New Orleans sales invoices. Robert Fogel (1989, p.57, 162) assumes that the slaves without recorded occupations were unskilled workers,concluding that skilled slaves were "less than half as likely to have been sold as were ordinary field hands." Using data from New Orleans newspapers, we find that most sales advertisements include information about the slave's skill or occupation. A comparison of the advertisement with the corresponding invoice shows that the slave's occupation was often omitted from the sales invoice. Because the slave's market price should reflect all relevant information available at the time of sale, the informational value of the slave's advertised occupation can be estimated using regression analysis. Interestingly, we find that the qualitative description of the slave's skill level affected his market price more than his advertised occupation. For example, an "excellent" cook commanded a premium price whereas a "plain" or "tolerable" cook did not. These results suggest that buyers used available information in making their bids and that newspaper advertisements were not simply "cheap talk."slavery, human capital

OAI identifier:

Suggested articles

Preview

Citations

  1. (New Orleans, 1830), various issues.
  2. (1830). A New Orleans Slave Sale Sample,
  3. (1908). A notarial guide and book of forms for the use of notaries, clerks of court and lawyers
  4. (1806). Acts, 1st Leg.,
  5. Advertiser. (New Orleans, 1830), various issues.
  6. Argus. (New Orleans, 1830), various issues.
  7. (1987). Guaranteed against the Vices and Maladies Prescribed by Law': Consumer Protection, the Law of Slave Sales, and the Supreme Court in Antebellum Louisiana,”
  8. (1981). New Orleans Slavery in 1850 as Seen in
  9. (2010). Notarial Archives, web site: http://www.notarialarchives.org/history.htm.
  10. of the Census. Abstract of the Fifth Census.
  11. (1993). Selection in the Market for Slaves: New Orleans: 1830 1860,”
  12. (2010). Sequential sales as a test of adverse selection in the market for slaves,” unpublished working paper. New Orleans: Tulane University,
  13. (1931). Slave Trading in the Old South
  14. (1992). Sources of Data on Slave Occupations: Their Uses and Limitations.” Without Consent of Contract: Evidence
  15. (1989). Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South.
  16. (1893). The Louisiana Justices’ Manual and Parish Officers’ Guide.
  17. (1976). The New Orleans Slave Sale Sample,
  18. The South West, By a Yankee.
  19. (1979). The Structure of Slave Prices
  20. (1974). Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.