Philipp Ager, Leah Boustan, Katherine Eriksson, 01 June 2019

One striking feature of many underdeveloped societies is that economic power is concentrated in the hands of very small powerful elites. This column explores why some elites show remarkable persistence, even after major economic disruptions, using the American Civil War’s effect on the Southern states. Analysis of census data shows that when the abolition of slavery threatened their economic status, Southern elites invested in their social networks, which helped them to recoup their losses fairly quickly.

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