Amnesty Policy and Elite Persistence in the Postbellum South: Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Design

03/26/2021 ∙ by Jason Poulos, et al. ∙ 0

This paper investigates the impact of Reconstruction-era amnesty policy on the officeholding and wealth of planter elites in the postbellum U.S. South. Amnesty policy restricted the political and economic rights of the planter class for nearly three years during Reconstruction. The paper estimates the effects of being excepted from amnesty on elites' future wealth and political power using a regression discontinuity design. Results on a sample of delegates to Reconstruction conventions show that exclusion from amnesty substantially decreases the likelihood of holding political office. I find no evidence that exclusion from amnesty impacted later census wealth for Reconstruction delegates or for a larger sample of known slaveholders who lived in the South in 1860. These findings are in line with previous studies evidencing changes to the identity of the political elite and continuity of economic mobility for the planter elite across the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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