In 1900, per capita income in the Southern United States stood at 51 per cent of the national average. This was roughly the same relative position it had experienced in 1880. However, it was significantly below the levels achieved in 1840 and 1860 when it stood at 76 and 72 per cent, respectively, of the national average.1 In the recent literature, these data have been interpreted to mean that the causes of Southern economic backwardness can be isolated in time to the 1860 to 1880 period. On the one hand, Stanley Engerman has argued that the decline from 76 to 72 per cent between 1840 and 1860 is within the usual margin of statistical error, and there is ‘no clear evidence for any marked change in the southern income position relative to that of the North’ for this period.2 On the other hand, the fact that the relative income of the South remained constant between 1880 and 1900 indicates that the region’s economy grew as rapidly as that of the rest of the country during these years. It was only between 1860 and 1880 that a marked deterioration in the region’s relative income occurred. It is to that period, therefore, that attention has been directed.
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- The Economic Underdevelopment of the United States South in the Post-Bellum Era
Jay R. Mandle
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