Since the start of this blog, one of the most popular posts has been one that analyzes the long-term costs of slavery in Africa. Of course, it is about the consequences in regions where slaves were taken from. There is also a region where they have been taken to, that is South Africa. What has been the impact there?
Johan Fourie writes that farmers taking slaves prospered thanks to economies of scale of specialization, to the point that they were considered by some to be the richest in the world at the time. But this advantage did not last long, as the use of slave labor discouraged further immigration from Europe. And as education opportunities were limited to (free) whites, large inequalities were maintained through a period where human capital became more important. These inequalities and the large fraction of poorly educated citizens, even after emancipation and the end of apartheid, stills drags the South African economy down, because institutions emerged to perpetuate these inequities.
This persistent impact of inequality in human capital is consistent with evidence from the US, as I reported in a previous post, with a recent update by the same authors just published recently. Graziella Bertocchi and Arcangelo Dimico expand on their use of US panel data. In short, they find that the education gap between whites and blacks at the county level today is determined by the initial gap in 1940, with only little convergence since. And the initial gap is largely explained by prevalence of slavery in earlier years.