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Dispersion and Distortions in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

Dalton, John and Leung, Tin Cheuk (2013): Dispersion and Distortions in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.

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Abstract

This paper documents the variation in economic characteristics across voyages during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Dispersion in output, measured as slaves disembarked, is highest across Portuguese voyages, lower across French voyages, and lowest across British voyages. We use a structural approach to identify market distortions from wedges in first order conditions. The dispersion in market distortions is highest for Portuguese voyages, followed by French and British. We then calculate the share of output dispersion due to the dispersion in market distortions. Dispersion in market distortions accounts for as much as 17% of the dispersion in output. Dispersion in total factor productivity accounts for the largest share of dispersion in output.

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