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Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xliv:2 (Autumn, 2013), 181–208.


John E. Murray and Werner Troesken

The African-American Labor Supply after
Reconstruction: Added Worker Effects in
Urban Families “The added worker effect” refers to the en-
trance of a family member into the labor force after its head of the
household becomes unemployed. Most commonly, a married
woman who enters the labor force when her husband loses his job
is the eponymous added worker. Although the description has
intuitive appeal, present-day empirical evidence of the added
worker effect has been thin. Unemployment-insurance beneªts
mitigate the need for a wife to begin a job search, at least in the
short run. In addition, relatively high employment rates of married
women may make it statistically difªcult to detect movement of a
wife into the labor force. Finally, in aggregate data, and perhaps in
microdata as well, a discouraged worker effect may work against
an added worker effect, if, in response to their husband’s job loss,
some wives remain out of the labor force, or if they give up on
their own job search.
Historical data have supported the added worker hypothesis,
but data availability has limited the chances to conduct tests. Al-
though the 1880 and 1900 censuses asked about “gainful employ-
ment,” exactly what the Census Bureau meant by that phrase, in
present-day terms, and how respondents interpreted it when an-
swering, is muddled. Nonetheless, from census records, as well as
John E. Murray is Joseph R. Hyde III Professor of Political Economy, Rhodes College. He is
the author of The Charleston Orphan House: Children’s Lives in the First Public Orphanage in
America (Chicago, 2013); “Generation(s) of Human Capital: Literacy in American Families,
1830–1875,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXVII (1997), 413–435.
Werner Troesken is Professor of Economics, University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of
The Great Lead Water Pipe Disaster (Cambridge, Mass., 2006); Water, Race, and Disease (Cam-
bridge, Mass., 2004).
The authors thank Nicholas Onyszczak for research assistance and William R. Thomp-
son, Head of Special Collections at the W. E. B. DuBois Library, University of Massachusetts,
for sending a photocopy of a questionnaire from DuBois’ Condition of the Negroes of Phila-
delphia survey. They also thank Hoyt Bleakley, Lou Cain, Kris Keith, Trevon Logan, Tom
Maloney, Chuck McKinney, Paul Rhode, Richard Steckel, Warren Whatley, and other
workshop participants at the University of Michigan and the Center for Population Econom-
ics, University of Chicago, as well as those in attendance at the 2011 Social Science History
Association meetings, for perceptive comments.
© 2013 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Journal of Interdisciplinary
History, Inc., doi:10.1162/JINH_a_00536
182 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

federal cost of living surveys, a small literature has emerged to

conªrm the existence of an added worker effect in the late nine-
teenth and early twentieth centuries.
This article uses a unique dataset to make three distinct but in-
tertwined contributions to that literature. First, the sample consists
of African Americans, whose family economies at the end of the
nineteenth century remain understudied for lack of data. Second,
questions about periods of ill health among family members en-
abled us to address problems with previous measures of gainful
work. Third, heads of households who had not worked at some
point during the previous year reported the various ªnancial meth-
ods that they used to manage their intervals of joblessness. To-
gether, the survey’s characteristics enable deªnite conclusions
about labor-market decision making within African-American
families at a time previously understood only through anecdote.

the added worker effect and african-american unemploy-

ment The ªrst empirical study of the added worker effect, by
Mincer, differentiated between effects of husbands’ short-term
(strong) and long-term (weak) unemployment on their wife’s en-
try into the labor supply. Long asserted that Mincer’s lack of data
about African-American women presented “a severe challenge” to
claims of having modeled the entire labor market. He urged that
“the case of Negro wives calls for more discussion.” An early and
inºuential study by Heckman and MaCurdy found no added
worker relationship with longitudinal data. One reason for this
ªnding is a possible endogeneity problem due to assortative mat-
ing, for which longitudinal data might control. In this theory,
spouses with similar levels of human capital or degrees of labor-
market attachment marry. Lundberg, also using longitudinal data,
found a small added worker effect in white families, but strong ev-
idence of endogeneity in African-American families, possibly due
to this assortative mating process.1
The added worker effect seems to have been stronger in the
1 Jacob Mincer, “Labor Force Participation of Married Women: A Study of Labor Supply,”
in National Bureau of Economic Research, Aspects of Labor Economics (Princeton, 1962), 63–
97; Clarence D. Long, “Comment,” in ibid., 98–105; James Heckman and Thomas MaCurdy,
“A Life Cycle Model of Female Labor Supply,” Review of Economic Studies, XLVII (1980), 47–
74; Tim Maloney, “Unobserved Variables and the Elusive Added Worker Effect,” Economica,
LVIII (1991), 173–187; Shelly Lundberg, “The Added Worker Effect,” Journal of Labor Eco-
nomics, III (1985), 11–37.
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 183
past than in more recent times. Toward the end of the Great De-
pression, according to Finegan and Margo, wives of men who were
unemployed but not on work relief in 1939 were half again as likely
to be in the labor market as were wives with employed husbands,
in part due to screening for the assignment of public-works posi-
tions. Analogous results have been found in the present day; Cullen
and Gruber reported strong evidence that unemployment insur-
ance reduced wives’ tendency to enter the labor force in response
to their husbands’ unemployment. The implication is that histori-
cal data collected in the absence of unemployment beneªts may
yield evidence of an added worker effect that is simply latent in the
present day.2
More general added worker effects have appeared in historical
data that were collected when unemployment was ªrst recognized
as a general social and economic problem. Moehling discovered
that spousal unemployment inºuenced wives’ work in home pro-
duction as well as in the labor market. She showed that from 1917
to 1919, wives of unemployed men both increased their home pro-
duction of goods and services and, to a greater degree, their own
participation in the labor force. Added worker effects also appeared
in earlier nineteenth-century data. Goldin used the 1880 census to
show that husbands’ duration of unemployment was signiªcantly
associated with labor-force participation among married women.
In similar fashion, Fraundorf, using 1901 data aggregated at the
state level, found that male unemployment rates were associated
positively with both wives’ employment and the presence of
roomers and boarders in the household.3
2 T. Aldrich Finegan and Robert A. Margo, “Work Relief and the Labor Force Participa-
tion of Married Women in 1940, Journal of Economic History, LIV (1994), 64–84; Julie Berry
Cullen and Jonathan Gruber, “Does Unemployment Insurance Crowd out Spousal Labor
Supply?” Journal of Labor Economics, XVIII (2000), 546–572.
3 For a top-down view, not so much of unemployed workers as of how policymakers
viewed the phenomenon of unemployment, see Udo Sautter, Three Cheers for the Unemployed:
Government and Unemployment before the New Deal (New York, 2003). Other broad historical
studies include Alexander Keyssar, Out of Work: The First Century of Unemployment in Massa-
chusetts (New York, 1986); Richard K. Vedder and Lowell Gallaway, Out of Work: Unemploy-
ment and Government in Twentieth Century America (New York, 1997; orig. pub. 1993). Carolyn
M. Moehling, “Women’s Work and Men’s Unemployment,” Journal of Economic History, LXI
(2001), 926–949. Not all studies of the nineteenth century detected added worker effects.
Elyce J. Rotella, “Labor Force Participation and the Decline of the Family Economy in the
United States,” Explorations in Economic History, XVII (1980), 95–117, found no relationship
between unemployment and women’s labor-force-participation rates in cities. Claudia D.
Goldin, “Female Labor Force Participation: The Origin of Black and White Differences, 1870
184 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

Differentials in measures of labor-market activity by race dur-

ing the period under study contrast with those in the present,
whereas differentials by sex are, relatively speaking, similar. Racial
differentials in unemployment rates were relatively small between
1880 and 1910. According to the 1890 census, African-American
unemployment was slightly lower than white unemployment—
4.1 percent versus 4.4 percent. By 1900, African-American unem-
ployment was slightly higher—7.6 percent versus 6.5 percent. The
average rates may have masked substantially different distributions
of intervals of unemployment. Because African-American workers
were mobile during the Reconstruction years, they were subject to
frequent short bursts of unemployment. By the turn of the century,
overall job tenure was typically brief, although, again, the distribu-
tions of intervals may have been such that a minority of workers ac-
counted for most of the short-term lapses in employment. Data
about African-American workers in particular are scarce, but anec-
dotal evidence suggests that they had relatively brief periods of em-
ployment. Pension applications by veterans of the U.S. Colored
Troops and their survivors described many careers that consisted of
brief stops at a variety of jobs. The men in the Cambridge sub-
sample studied herein reported distinct difªculties in ªnding regu-
lar work. In their experience, employers would not hire African-
American applicants because white employees refused to work
with them. As a result, according to Butler R. Wilson, an Atlanta
University researcher, African- American men “had to ‘job around’
with unsteady employment.”4

to 1880,” Journal of Economic History, XXXVII (1977), 87–108 (esp. 103); Martha Norby
Fraundorf, “The Labor Force Participation of Turn-of-the-Century Married Women,” Jour-
nal of Economic History, XXXIX (1979), 401–418.
4 Robert W. Fairlie and William A. Sundstrom, “The Emergence, Persistence, and Recent
Widening of the Racial Unemployment Gap,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, LII
(1999), 252–270; Richard K. Vedder and Lowell Gallaway, “Racial Differences in Unem-
ployment in the United States, 1880–1990,” Journal of Economic History, LII (1992), 696–702;
Gavin Wright, Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy since the Civil War
(New York, 1986), 65–66. Duration of employment and unemployment a century ago has
drawn considerable scholarly attention. A recent examination qualiªed its results with the
term eclectic, suggesting that short periods of employment were interrupted by tramping, and
longer ones by seasonal unemployment and longer-term layoffs. See John James and Mark
Thomas, “A Golden Age? Unemployment and the American Labor Market, 1880–1910,”
Journal of Economic History, LXIII (2003), 959–994; Sanford Jacoby and Sunil Sharma, “Em-
ployment Duration and Industrial Labor Mobility in the United States, 1880–1980,” ibid., LII
(1992), 161–179; Susan Carter and Elizabeth Savoca, “Labor Mobility and Lengthy Jobs in
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 185
Racial differentials in rates of labor-force participation among
married women have narrowed considerably during the last cen-
tury. The Current Population Survey reports that before the reces-
sion beginning in 2007, the rate of labor-force participation for
women older than twenty was about 60 percent for whites and
about 65 percent for African Americans. This gap was considerably
wider in earlier periods, especially among married women. At the
time of Atlanta University’s “Condition of the Negro” survey in
1897, only 3 percent of married white women were in the labor
force, whereas 25 percent of married nonwhite women were. This
ªnding reveals another reason for why the added worker effect was
more pronounced in the past among married women of all races.
Because few married women at that time worked outside the home
in the ªrst place, a search for employed women that began with
their husbands’ unemployment would be much easier to detect sta-
tistically than would a search for women’s employment in the pres-
ent when most married women are already employed.5
Narrative historians of the African-American family and labor-
market experience have described a static labor market in which
the added worker effect was unlikely to arise. Jones characterized the
late nineteenth-century urban South as offering only sporadic em-
ployment to African-American men, often seasonal and typically
lasting only as long as a particular project, as in construction. As a
result of this unsteady employment, their wives entered regular
employment as laundresses and domestic servants—occupations
that proved to be regularly in demand. Although the logic in this
instance is similar to that behind the added worker hypothesis, in
order to explain the much higher employment rates among Afri-
can-American women relative to those among white women,
Jones and other historians suggest that this arrangement was typical
of families most of the time. Thus, by implication, if a husband lost
his job, no added worker movement would be statistically detect-

Nineteenth-Century America,” ibid., L (1990),1–16. None of these studies distinguished

workers by race; indeed, all of them seem to have used samples of white workers for their
analysis. Elizabeth A. Regosin and Donald R. Shaffer, Voices of Emancipation: Understanding
Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files (New York,
2008), 87–103; “Social and Physical Condition of Negroes in Cities,” in Atlanta University
Publications (Atlanta, 1897), II, 7.
5 Goldin, Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women (New York,
1992), 18.
186 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

able because his wife was already in the labor force as a precaution-
ary strategy.6
Strangely, this picture of African-American labor supply (and
demand) corresponds closely to that offered by early twentieth-
century historians, who described much the same phenomenon
but with excruciatingly racist language. Fleming, a historian in the
Dunning school, claimed that in Auburn, Alabama, “Negro men
spend much of their time in loaªng around their homes where they
are supported by the work of their wives, mothers, or sweethearts.”
Conceivably, what Fleming saw as “loaªng” was simply the inabil-
ity, either temporary or chronic, to ªnd paying work. Fleming also
complained that “the husband of a good washerwoman seldom
works.” Again, what Fleming saw as conªrmation of his biases may
simply have resulted from the spousal coordination of labor-supply
decisions, and, in particular, added worker responses to a husband’s
unemployment. As DuBois noted, “the comparatively small sup-
port given by these [African-American] men to their families is
not due to the unwillingness, but to their inability to get work as
readily and constantly as the women.”7
Other reports by eyewitnesses and participants explicitly de-
scribe added worker responses. A bricklayer named Edward Mason
described different family situations in each of his two marriages:
“During my ªrst wife’s lifetime she never worked out for no other
family, for she didn’t have to do it. I was making plenty to support
her, and the only work she did was her own housework.” After her
death and his remarriage, his unemployment forced his second wife
to take in laundry. “That dollar a week she gets for it comes mighty
handy when I’m out of work. A dollar’s worth of ºour or meal will
keep you from going hungry a long time when you’re out hunting
for a job.” At the other end of the socioeconomic scale was Rosetta
Sprague, daughter of Frederick Douglass. Because her husband
Nathan was something of a ne’er-do-well, the couple depended
heavily on Douglass’ assistance. A postal position that Douglass ob-
6 Jacqueline Jones, Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from
Slavery to the Present (New York, 2010), 103–108. See also Robert H. Ziegler, For Jobs and
Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865 (Lexington, Ky., 2007), 19–22; W. E. B. DuBois,
The Negro American Artisan (Atlanta, 1913), 114, 116.
7 Walter L. Fleming, “The Servant Problem in a Black Belt Village,” Sewanee Review, VIII
(1905), 2, 5. For William A. Dunning and his academic progeny, including Fleming, see Peter
Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession
(New York, 1988), 77–80, 230. “Social and Physical Condition,” 7.
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 187
tained for Nathan ended in a matter of months when Nathan was
caught opening letters and stealing their contents. After Nathan
landed in prison, Rosetta, thanks to her father, entered employ-
ment as a clerk in government ofªces in Washington, D.C.8
Another way to manage the risk of unemployment was to save
against the future loss of income or, once overtaken by events, to
borrow against chattels, typically through chattel lenders or pawn-
shops. Palumbo used data from a survey taken by Maine’s bureau of
labor statistics in 1890 to show that the wages of family members
who worked served as substitutes for savings by the head of the
household. Furthermore, a family’s tendency to save was positively
correlated with earnings variance, whether due to ill health or in-
ability to ªnd work. Savings patterns among African Americans at
this time may well have differed from those of whites, given the
lessons that African Americans learned from the collapse of the
Freedman’s Saving and Trust Company. At the end of the Civil
War, Congress chartered this institution to serve the inevitably
small depositors among the newly emancipated population. The
bank grew for a time, creating branches in most of the country, in-
cluding many in the cities in this sample. Its failure in 1874 had dire
consequences that outlasted Reconstruction. In the twentieth cen-
tury, DuBois could still write, “Negroes distrust all saving institu-
tions since the fatal collapse of the Freedmen’s (sic) Bank.”9
Nonetheless, African Americans’ desire to save continued,
eventually producing capital that was able to support more ªnan-
cial intermediaries. Early in the twentieth century, DuBois listed
thirty-ªve African-American-owned banks, mostly in the South.
Employing early twentieth-century data originating slightly later
than those of the present study, Olney observed that African-
American families had a reasonable degree of access to installment
credit so long as the merchants involved could expect to repossess
the goods in case of default. Access to book credit from merchants,
however, was limited by racially prejudiced expectations of buyer
creditworthiness. Olney’s conclusion, combined with present-day

8 Tera Hunter, To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil
War (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), 52; Dorothy Sterling (ed.), We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in
the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1997), 418–423.
9 DuBois, The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (Philadelphia, 1996; orig. pub. 1899), 184;
Michael G. Palumbo, “Estimating the Effects of Earnings Uncertainty on Families’ Savings
and Insurance Decisions,” Southern Economic Journal, LXVII (2000), 64–86.
188 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

ªndings about the importance of credit constraints to the added

worker response, suggests that racially differentiated added worker
behavior might have been due in part to differential access to

“the condition of the negro” survey “The Condition of the

Negro” survey can provide an early test of the added worker hy-
pothesis. Since the survey was a one-time event, thus providing
only cross-sectional information, we cannot rule out the inºu-
ence of assortative mating in marriage markets. However, unlike
other studies, even with present-day data, this one can control for
the confounding effects of each spouse’s health. Previous studies
found that health status is an important and typically overlooked
inºuence on labor supply. We ªnd that health information is cru-
cial for our econometric speciªcations; its inclusion helps to ex-
plain a large share of variation in wives’ employment status. More-
over, when unemployed, fathers were most likely to depend on
their children in the labor force, if they had any, for support, sug-
gesting that the added worker effect extended to the children in
the family as well as spouses.11
Many states in the late nineteenth century conducted surveys
of workers through their state bureaus of labor statistics. Unfortu-
nately, African-American workers appear hardly at all in those sur-
veys, partly because the states that conducted the surveys were in
the North when most African Americans were in the South and
partly because state authorities took scant interest in the status of
African Americans. Given this ignorance about the plight of Afri-
can Americans, DuBois organized the well-known survey that he
analyzed in his 1899 work The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study.
But DuBois was not the only investigator interested in the state
of African-American families. Taking their cue from the Tuske-
gee Institute conferences organized by Booker T. Washington
for farmers and rural teachers in the early 1890s, the president and
a trustee (both white) of the historically African-American At-

10 DuBois (ed.), Economic Cooperation among Negro Americans (Atlanta, 1907), 138; Martha L.
Olney, “When Your Word Is Not Enough: Race, Collateral, and Household Credit,” Journal
of Economic History, LVIII (1998), 408–431; Lundberg, “Added Worker Effect”; Heckman and
MaCurdy, “Life Cycle Model.”
11 James Lambrinos, “Health: A Source of Bias in Labor Supply,” Review of Economics and
Statistics, LXIII (1981), 206–212.
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 189
lanta University recruited alumni to collect data for the ªrst two
Atlanta University Studies in 1896 and 1897. These projects aimed
to examine all aspects of contemporary African-American life—
health, mortality, education, labor-market experience, business
practice, and so on. When its initial director died suddenly, the
university hired DuBois, whose association with the series lasted
from 1897 to 1914.12
The initial motivation behind the survey was to explain the
relatively high African-American mortality rates; Troesken ana-
lyzed the results in 2004. In order to study the connection between
mortality and living standards in several cities, the Atlanta Univer-
sity alumni who initiated the project eventually enlisted alumni of
other historically African-American universities, such as Fisk and
Howard, as well as African-American alumni of at least one inte-
grated college, Berea. Together they canvassed neighborhoods in
cities with which they were familiar and where they were known
and trusted. Leaders of the project emphasized that employing Af-
rican Americans as survey takers led to more accurate data than any
other previous survey could have obtained. A particular beneªt in
this era of the Great Migration was that although the study focused
on families in southern cities, Wilson, the investigator to whom we
referred above, followed a group of about 100 families from North
Carolina to their new homes in Cambridge, Massachusetts.13
The analysis herein is based on data from the ªrst of these At-
lanta University Studies, as published by the Department of Labor
in 1897—a project that Higgs described as “the most comprehen-
sive, systematic, and carefully conducted investigation of its kind
made before World War I.” Table 1 describes the distribution of
sample families across the cities. The largest shares derive from the
cities of participating universities: 29 percent of sample families
lived in Atlanta; 21 percent in Nashville, the locations of Atlanta
12 DuBois, Philadelphia Negro, nearly had a precedent at the federal level. When in the
1880s Carroll Wright proposed “a large scale inquiry into negro labor,” Secretary of the Inte-
rior Lucius Q. C. Lamar and later Presidents Harrison and Cleveland effectively scuttled the
idea. See James Leiby, Carroll Wright and Labor Reform: The Origin of Labor Statistics (Cam-
bridge, 1960), 106–107. Elliott M. Rudwick, “W. E. B. DuBois and the Atlanta University
Studies on the Negro,” Journal of Negro Education, XXVI (1957), 467–468. The W. E. B.
DuBois Library at the University of Massachusetts has made the entire series available on-
line at Rudwick, “W. E. B.
DuBois”; David Levering Lewis, W. E. B. DuBois, 1868–1919: Biography of a Race (New York,
1993), 197–199.
13 Troesken, Water, Race, and Disease (Cambridge, Mass., 2004).
190 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

Table 1 Cities in the “Condition of the Negro” Survey

city number of households number of people
Atlanta, Ga. 324 1,292
Nashville, Tenn. 246 1,090
Cambridge, Mass. 89 366
Savannah, Ga. 96 380
Washington, D.C. 66 293
Macon, Ga. 30 90
Jacksonville, Fla. 77 327
Columbia, S.C. 15 81
Birmingham, Ala. 17 63
Tuskegee, Ala. 21 119
Orangeburg, S.C. 22 109
Sanford, Fla. 24 116
Athens, Ga. 16 73
Cartersville, Ga. 10 53
Louisville, Ky. 15 70
Macon, Miss. 17 64
Chattanooga, Tenn. 21 89
Jackson, Tenn. 22 67
Total 1,137 4,742

and Fisk Universities; and 6 percent in Washington, D.C., the

home of Howard University. The sample also included such small
towns as Macon, Mississippi (population 2,057 in the 1900 census),
Sanford, Florida (population 1,450), and Cartersville, Georgia
(population 3,135). Respondents reported the occupation of the
head of household (Table 2), the number of weeks that he was em-
ployed in a year, his weekly wage, the presence of a housewife,
and, crucially for this study, the family’s method of dealing with
The questionnaire was not perfect, however. It asked for the
number of males and females in each household and the number of
children at home, at work, and at school, as well as the number of
those who both worked and attended school, but it provided al-
most no information about age. Because the survey sought re-
sponses at the family level, the kind of individual-level data that the

14 U.S. Department of Labor, “Condition of the Negro in Various Cities,” Bulletin of the
Department of Labor, X (1897), 257–369. A copy is available online at
economics/ConditionoftheNegroreport.pdf. Robert Higgs, Competition and Coercion: Blacks
in the American Economy, 1865–1914 (Chicago, 1980), 83.
Table 2 Occupational Categories
category occupations included
No occupation (no occupation given)
Agricultural Dairywoman, driver (truck farm), farm hand, farm laborer,
farmer, truck farmer.
Laborer Bell boy (hotel), bellman, car cleaner, car washer,
chambermaid, cleaning lady, cook, cotton picker, ditcher,
drayman, driver (city scavenger cart), driver (city wagon),
employee (factory), employee (laundry), gardener, grader,
hod carrier, housework, house cleaner, housework,
huckster, janitor, ironer, laborer (unspeciªed and in
various industries), lady’s maid, laundryman, mail porter,
nurse (child), picker (clippings, woolen mill), porter
(unspeciªed and in various industries), prostitute, odd
jobs, ofªce boy, rock breaker, section hand (railroad),
servant, sick nurse, steward (club), street sweeper, tier
(cotton), quarryman, washerwoman, well digger.
Semiskilled Asphalt layer, basket maker and chair bottomer, bather,
brick molder, broom maker, butler, carpenter, cattle
loader, cook (family), cook (hotel), cook (restaurant),
corker, cotton sampler, cotton gin operator, cupola
tender, delivery man (furniture store), carpet cleaner and
layer, dresser (lumber), dressmaker, driver (unspeciªed and
in various industries), employee (unspeciªed and in
various industries), engine cleaner (railroad), engine wiper
(railroad), ªreman (unspeciªed and at different ªrms),
ªsherman, gauge (lumber), grader (lumber), hack driver,
hostler, hunter, lamp cleaner (railroad), iron fence setter,
letter carrier, lineman (telegraph), longshoreman, mail
carrier, mail clerk, mattress maker, messenger, nurse (sick),
packer (paper), packer (store), packer (wholesale house),
painter, pickler (packing house), planing mill hand,
plasterer, railway postal clerk, salesman (groceries),
seamstress, smelter (iron foundry), sorter (lumber),
stevedore, stockkeeper (dry-goods store), tailor, teamster,
track walker (railroad), waiter, headwaiter, whitewasher,
wood sawyer.
Skilled Baker, barber, bricklayer, blacksmith, brakeman (railroad),
butcher, cabinet maker, car repairer, carpenter, copyist,
cigar maker, clerk, compositor, cooper, cutler, dressmaker,
electrician, engineer, ªreman (railroad), ªreman (steam
boat), glazier, lather, marble polisher, mason (stone),
mechanic (stove), miller, molder (iron foundry), painter,
painter (house), painter (carriage), paper hanger, pilot,
plumber, printer, roller maker, sand cutter (iron foundry),
sawyer (lumber mill), sewing machine repairer,
shoemaker, tinner, tinsmith, wheelwright, wood turner.
192 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

Table 2 (Continued)
category occupations included
Entrepreneur Boarding house keeper, capitalist, president of bank,
contractor, contractor (building), contractor (carpentering),
contractor (grading and sodding), contractor (stone),
drayman (proprietor), ªsh dealer, ºorist, hack driver
(proprietor), junk dealer, lodging house keeper, market
woman, merchant, merchant (boots and shoes), merchant
(coal yard and wood), merchant (commission), merchant
(furniture), merchant (groceries), merchant (lumber),
merchant (meat), merchant (picture frames etc.), merchant
(wood), peddler, proprietor (blacksmith shop), proprietor
(hack line), proprietor (livery stable), proprietor
(restaurant), proprietress (laundry), rag dealer, saloon
keeper, teamster (proprietor).
Professional Agent for lodge, real-estate agent, bandmaster, bishop
(A.M.E. church), book agent, clergyman, dentist, editor,
physician, policeman, principal (public school), principal
(school), secretary of society, salesman, sanitary inspector
(city), teacher, teacher (music), teacher (private school),
yardmaster (railroad).

U.S. Census collected was at best an afterthought. Only if a house-

hold member had fallen sick during the previous year did it record
an age, though not one directly linked with any particular house-
hold member—unless the household comprised a single person liv-
ing alone. This study includes an approximate control for age ef-
fects through variables that report the number of children at home
(that is, with relatively young parents), at school (older children of
older parents), and at work (on average, children in their teens with
middle-aged parents). But we are unable to control directly for the
age of the husband or the wife of our sample families.
The survey directors had greater conªdence in the results
from the larger cities than in the more scattershot returns from the
smaller cities: “Great care was taken in the selection of groups and
in securing data in Atlanta, Ga., Nashville, Tenn., and in Cam-
bridge, Mass., and it is to the tabulation for these cities that we must
look for the most representative and accurate showing of the con-
ditions of the negro so far as this investigation is concerned.” Data
for the other places was useful mostly “for the value it may have in
corroborating the facts presented for” the three major cities. Given
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 193
the description of the investigators as college graduates, as well as
doctors, ministers, lawyers, and teachers, the survey was likely exe-
cuted carefully in both the large and small cities.15
The survey offers a rare, detailed look at family ªnances. In ad-
dition to the information taken from the head of household, as out-
lined above, the survey also reported incomes earned by the wives
of the respondents and by other family members—offspring, resi-
dent siblings of the head or wife, grandchildren, nieces, and neph-
ews. It did not, however, report the time that these people spent
working. Combining these ªgures yielded an estimate of median
annual family earnings of $391 for the entire sample. By compari-
son, the median family income in DuBois’ contemporary sample of
Philadelphia families was between $350 and $400. This comparison
suggests that North–South differentials in family income among
urban African-Americans were small at this time.16
The survey provided enough information to infer the marital
status of the head of household and the health status of the husband
and of the wife. Whenever the survey noted the presence of a
housewife, or a wife who was in the labor force, we inferred that a
married couple headed the household. To generate variables about
the physical health of both spouses, we used the responses to ques-
tions concerning days of illness in the previous year. Both wives
who worked outside the home and those who did not report illness
that caused them to miss days of work and illness that did not keep
them from work. Hence, we surmise that the answers regarding
missed workdays refer both to work in the labor market and work
at home production and child care.
The “Condition of the Negro” survey offers a combination of
health and labor-market information about African-American fami-
lies that was unique for this time. The Atlanta University Studies
published after DuBois began directing the project did not repro-
duce survey responses in detail but summary statistics with discus-
sion and analysis. The state labor-market surveys, digitized by the
Historical Labor Statistics Project of the University of California,
included only a handful of African-American workers (“exo-
dusters” in Kansas) and little information about spousal labor sup-
ply. The 1880 census asked about unemployment but not health,

15 U.S. Department of Labor, “Condition of the Negro,” 258.

16 DuBois, Philadelphia Negro, 170.
194 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

and the quality of responses seems to have been unreliable. The

1900 census avoided many of the problems of the 1880 census in
this regard, but the meaning of unemployment remained cloudy,
failing to distinguish between workdays missed involuntarily and
those missed voluntarily (for rest, travel, home production, etc.).
Hence, data to test the trigger for the added worker effect remain
The questions about employment in the “Condition of the
Negro” survey were similar to those in the census about occupa-
tion and weeks of employment. One of the questions concerned
whether the wife of the head of household was a housewife; if so,
this woman was assigned to the category “not in labor force.”
Footnotes described the relationship between any working family
members (wife or children) to the head of household; wives who
worked were assigned to the employed category below. Because
no information was provided about spousal days of work, we can
use only a dummy variable for employed versus not in the labor-
force with regard to wives.
Quantitative information about the group that migrated from
North Carolina to Cambridge, Mass., was unusual for the Great Mi-
gration. The 1900 census found 3,888 African Americans in Cam-
bridge. Since the total number of people in Cambridge families
sampled in this study was 366, the survey considered just under 10
percent of Cambridge’s African-American population. Within the
limits imposed by the data-collection methods, we can examine
how the Cambridge sub-sample differed from families in the South
and how these families were similar (see Table 3). Household heads
in the Cambridge group were more likely to be unskilled laborers,
less likely to have achieved a certain degree of work-related skills,
and less likely to be in a profession. They were also more likely to
be married men than were those in southern families.18
The greatest advantage that the Cantabrigians had over their
counterparts in the South—which must have been the source of
many of the migrants’ motivation—was their much higher annual
17 Jon R. Moen, “From Gainful Employment to Labor Force: Deªnitions and a New Esti-
mate of Work Rates of American Males, 1860–1980,” Historical Methods, XXI (1988),149–
18 Margo, Race and Schooling in the South, 1880–1950 (Chicago, 1994); William J. Collins,
“When the Tide Turned: Immigration and the Delay of the Great Black Migration,” Journal
of Economic History, LVII (1997), 607–632; U.S. Bureau of the Census, Negroes in the United
States, Bulletin 8 (Washington, D.C., 1904), 230.
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 195
Table 3 Comparison between Cambridge, Mass., Sub-Sample and the South
occupation cambridge south
Agricultural $ 0 $ 0.01
Laborer $ 0.57 $ 0.49
Semi-skilled $ 0.17 $ 0.24
Skilled $ 0.17 $ 0.21
Entrepreneur $ 0.05 $ 0.05
Professional $ 0.01 $ 0.07
family position
Annual family earnings $696.00 $495.00
Married male head of household $ 0.82 $ 0.75
Number of adults in household $ 2.16 $ 2.17
Number of working children $ 0.17 $ 0.51
Number of school children $ 0.63 $ 0.62
Number of children at home $ 0.72 $ 0.98
Number of work weeks $ 45.60 $ 47.60
home situation
Owns house $ 0.03 $ 0.33
Lives in “good” area $ 0 $ 0.33
Lives in “fair” area $ 1 $ 0.45
Lives in “bad” area $ 0 $ 0.21
N $ 95 $914

family earnings. Although their average skill level seems to have

been lower, they earned about 40 percent more, or about $200 per
year, which they were able to do without putting more children to
work. Hence, the difference must have stemmed from higher
wages paid to the heads of household. Yet, these heads of house-
hold confronted a greater risk of unemployment than those in the
South. Their number of work weeks was two fewer; their average
amount of work time lost was almost 150 percent as much as that of
the southerners (4.4 weeks in the South versus 6.4 weeks in Cam-
bridge), though apparently their wages were enough to compen-
sate for the increased risk. Families in the Cambridge group were
much less likely to own a home; those who did tended, by their
own accounts, to live in unspectacular neighborhoods.

results First, using a sub-sample limited to households headed

by a married couple, we consider the inºuences on the probability
that the wives worked outside rather than inside the home. The
dependent variable for wives’ labor supply was thus binary, equal
196 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

to one if the survey reported them as working and to zero if it re-

ported them as housewives. The sick time of both husbands and
wives was reported in days. We assumed a six-day work week to
calculate weeks lost to ill health. The number of work weeks that
heads of household missed the previous year equaled ªfty-two mi-
nus the number of weeks that they reported being employed. We
subtracted weeks sick from weeks without work to get a net meas-
ure of unemployment closer to the modern measure—time re-
spondents spent not at work when they were willing and physi-
cally able to work. Respondents who reported being unemployed
during the last year also answered a question about how the
household managed ªnancially during their unemployment. De-
tails of other variables appear in Table 4. In only one case did a
husband report that he ordinarily relied on his wife during unem-
ployment. He also said that she was not currently working and
thus was a potential added worker (Nashville group 6, family 9).19
Contrary to the image presented by narrative historians, those
in the Dunning school, and, unintentionally, DuBois, more than
two-thirds (69 percent) of married men in this survey reported
working every week in which they were physically capable during
the previous year (Table 5). Another 12 percent missed some time
from work for reasons other than health but no more than six
weeks. These men may have managed a full year of work only by
moving in relatively short order from employer to employer.
Those who reported that they had worked less than a full year may
have missed work voluntarily by spending their free time traveling,
tending sick family members, or performing other unpaid labor.
Nonetheless, the survey indicates that the great majority of married
men worked most of the year. The husband who was chronically
out of work and dependent on a working wife because of laziness,
the racism of employers or other workers, or a generally slack labor
market is conspicuous only by his absence in this study. Indeed, the
share of households with long-term (twelve or more weeks) unem-
ployed husbands and working wives was only 7.6 percent, and in

19 The number of children in Table 4, 2.12, seems small at ªrst glance, but combined with
the two parents in this sub-sample, the family size of about four is close to that in the 1880
census sample of African-American households, 3.78 people, in Goldin, “Female Labor
Force,” 98. The observation of the man who ordinarily relied on his wife did not report the
number of weeks that he had worked.
Table 4 Mean Values in Sub-Sample of Married Couples
standard standard
mean deviation mean deviation
Husband weeks unemployed $3.59 7.92 Wife employed 0.48 0.50
Unskilled $0.42 0.49 Number of children at home 1.08 1.46
Semiskilled $0.22 0.42 Number of children at school 0.68 1.13
Skilled $0.21 0.41 Number of children at work 0.36 0.77
Entrepreneur/ professional $0.13 0.33 Nuclear family 0.77 0.42
Weekly wage $8.59 6.98 Own house 0.33 0.47
Husband not ill in past year $0.65 0.48 Wife not ill in past year 0.50 0.50
Husband ill in past year but $0.13 0.34 Wife ill in past year but 0.075 0.26
missed no work missed no work
Husband ill but days missed $0.02 0.14 Wife ill but days missed not 0.08 0.28
not reported reported
Husband missed 1–7 days $0.06 0.23 Wife missed 1–7 days work 0.05 0.22
work due to illness due to illness
Husband missed 8–28 days $0.06 0.24 Wife missed 8–28 days work 0.13 0.34
work due to illness due to illness
Husband missed more than $0.08 0.28 Wife missed more than 0.16 0.37
28 days work due to illness 28 days work due to illness
notes Husband weeks unemployed ! total weeks without work " weeks sick and unable to work. n!741 for all variables except those regarding husband
days sick, for which 727 observations were reported.
Table 5 Distributions of Weeks of Illness and Weeks of Unemployment for Husbands Who Reported Days of Illness and Weeks of

weeks of husband’s sickness share of households with

weeks of number boarder
husband’s weeks not ill but wife or
unemployment reported worked 0 0–1 1–4 4! total employed lodger
0 14 95 353 10 15 24 511 0.43 0.05
0–1 0 0 7 6 5 9 27 0.44 0.04
1–6 0 1 32 9 16 7 65 0.54 0.00
6–12 0 1 38 6 4 11 60 0.58 0.00
12! 0 0 52 12 4 10 78 0.72 0.04
Total 14 97 482 43 44 61 741 0.50 0.04

share of households with

Wife employed 0.50 0.45 0.46 0.51 0.64 0.54 0.50
Boarder or lodger 0.00 0.01 0.05 0.02 0.02 0.07 0.04
note Respondents who reported ill health but not the number of days of ill health were excluded.
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 199
some of these cases, husbands’ unemployment may have been due
to poor health.
The wives of those married men who did miss work may have
had enough slack in their labor supply to indicate an added worker
response, and their husbands may have missed enough work to
trigger it. Thanks to the survey’s questions regarding both health
and unemployment, we can address the added worker hypothesis
in terms of both health and the inability of husbands to ªnd work
when they wanted it (Table 5). Table 5 also shows the share of
households with boarders or lodgers and with an employed wife as
a function of sickness and unemployment spells. The presence of
boarders or lodgers and the duration of unemployment appear to
have no relationship. For short-term illnesses, lasting one to four
weeks, the share of employed wives increased, perhaps because
they could work from home—for example, by washing laundry for
pay—relatively easily and still care for their husbands. The share of
employed wives declined, however, for illnesses lasting four weeks
or more, perhaps because at that point, wives needed to spend
more time nursing their husbands. The most obvious relationship
concerns the added worker effect. As husbands’ time spent unem-
ployed increased, so did the share of employed wives. Slightly
more than two-ªfths of wives whose husbands had stayed em-
ployed worked for pay, whereas nearly three-quarters of wives
whose husbands had been unemployed for three or more months
did so. In rough terms, this trend is consistent with added worker
In certain families, however, husbands and wives might both
have decided to work, or wives might have worked to allow their
husbands free time. In either case, husbands’ weeks unemployed
and ill would be endogenous to a model of their wives’ labor sup-
ply. To examine this possibility, we estimated Hausman tests. In the
ªrst stage, we regressed wives’ labor-force status on several of the
variables discussed below, both with and without the survey’s in-
formation about their health status—namely, the number of days
in the previous year when wives were too ill to work at home or in
the labor market. The residuals from these regressions were then
included in regressions of husbands’ missed weeks on his occupa-
tional dummies, his weekly wage, and a vector of geographical
dummies. The test consists of comparing the t-ratio of the residual
coefªcient to a null hypothesis of zero, which corresponds to
200 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

Table 6 Hausman Tests for Endogeneity of Wives’ Labor-Market Status and

Husbands’ Out-of-Work Status

husband’s husband’s
weeks weeks
unemployed sick
Without wife health information !9.96 !6.16
!(6.80) !(3.03)
!0.14 !0.04
With wife health information !1.32 !1.20
!(2.33) !(1.28)
!0.57 !0.35
N 741 727
notes A ªrst-stage regression was estimated of wife’s labor-force status ("1 if employed;
"0 if not) on variables for numbers of children at home, at work, and at school; a dummy for
the presence of extended family members; and a vector of geographical dummies. The resid-
ual of this ªrst-stage regression was included in a regression of the number of weeks husbands
missed work due to illness or other reasons (that is, “unemployment”). The top number in
each cell is the coefªcient of this residual variable; the clustered (by neighborhood) standard
error is in parentheses; and in italics is the p-value of this Hausman test, for which the null hy-
pothesis is exogeneity of the two spousal labor-market status variables.

exogeneity, since it indicates that the residual is not bringing any

new information into the second-step regression. The results,
given in Table 6, suggest that the availability of wives’ health data,
without regard to its substantive importance, is useful economet-
rically; its inclusion negates any concern with endogeneity. Thus,
we proceed with regressions of wives’ employment status on vari-
ables that describe their health, children’s status, geographical loca-
tion, and the amount of work time that their husbands missed.
The results of three logit regressions, reported in Table 7, indi-
cate that children’s situation, whether they were at home, at
school, or at work, had little effect on wives’ employment (the
standard errors have been clustered by neighborhood). The work
of housewives was a normal good, complementary to homeowner-
ship. The greater the weekly wage that husbands earned, the more
likely were their wives not to participate in the labor force. Simi-
larly, wives who lived in houses owned by their family were about
25 percent less likely to be employed. Wives’ health inºuenced
their labor-market status; the likelihood of employment for wives
who had been ill for as much as a month was 20 percent lower than
that for wives who reported no sick days.
Table 7 Employed Status of Wives Regressed on Husbands’ Weeks Ill and on Weeks Unemployed with Wives’ Health Information
standard standard standard
parameter estimate error estimate error estimate error
Intercept !0.8827 0.6877 !1.0674 0.6197 0.8484 0.6675
Husband ill weeks !0.0177 0.0192 0.0165 0.0187
Husband unemployed weeks !0.0546 0.0137 0.0544 0.0137
Husband weekly wage !0.0731 0.0224 !0.0769 0.0242 !0.0749 0.0239
Number children at home !0.0305 0.0587 !0.0279 0.0595 !0.0255 0.0604
Number children at work !0.1796 0.1593 !0.2073 0.1558 0.1661 0.1631
Number children at school !0.1116 0.0701 !0.1201 0.0714 0.1230 0.0716
Nuclear family !0.0555 0.2162 !0.0574 0.2141 0.0284 0.2255
Own house !0.5844 0.2720 !0.5400 0.2741 !0.5215 0.2695
Wife sick but number of days unknown !0.8535 0.3010 !0.8077 0.3305 !0.7808 0.3215
Wife ill but worked !3.5047 0.7537 !3.5088 0.7552 3.5010 0.7580
Wife days ill 0–7 !1.2377 0.4234 !1.0109 0.3966 !1.1771 0.4211
Wife days ill 7–28 !0.8034 0.2684 !0.8248 0.2710 !0.7900 0.2651
Wife days ill 28– !0.4405 0.2835 !0.4152 0.2742 !0.4130 0.2850
Pseudo R !0.14 !0.16 0.15
N 727 741 727
notes Dependent variable is wife employed"1; housewife"0 otherwise. Method is logit, clustered by neighborhood. State dummies were included but not
202 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

Table 7 reports evidence in support of an added worker re-

sponse to husbands’ lack of work, but wives’ responses depended
on the reason for this lack of work. The wives of husbands who had
been ill were not signiªcantly more likely to be employed; by itself
and together with the variable unemployed weeks, the time that
husbands spent ill was not signiªcantly related to their wives’ em-
ployment. The number of weeks that husbands were out of work
for reasons other than health, however, was associated signiªcantly
with their wives’ probability of being employed. Wives with hus-
bands unemployed for the average length (among all married men)
of 3.59 weeks were 4 percent more likely to be employed than
those with husbands who had not been out of work—a relatively
small effect. But, restricting this comparison to men who had expe-
rienced any unemployment, the wives of those husbands who did
not work for the mean number of unemployed weeks, 14.12, were
20 percent more likely to be employed than were those whose hus-
bands were always employed—a large added worker effect for typ-
ical unemployed husbands.
The “Condition of the Negro” data also allow us to examine
the question of what families did to replace the income when the
head of household was unemployed. To avoid problems of small
sample sizes, we included all of the households, not just those
headed by married couples, in this sub-sample. The survey investi-
gators asked those respondents who reported having been unem-
ployed during the previous year how they managed during that
time (“how subsisted when unemployed”). Since several respon-
dents reported more than one strategy, we estimated a series of
logits rather than a multinomial logit; the results are robust to
multinomial logit estimation as well. Table 8 reports categories for
the responses. We grouped references to help from family mem-
bers into a “family” category. References to charity and credit may
have referred to assistance from mutual-aid associations, fraternal
societies, or churches, all of which offered various kinds of assis-
tance to members. The large number of responses that mentioned
savings suggests a remarkable change of heart among African
Americans; their skepticism about ªnancial intermediaries, wide-
spread following the failure of Freedman’s Savings and Trust, ap-
parently had begun to wane.20

20 For general information about charity and credit, see DuBois (ed.), Economic Cooperation
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 203
Table 8 Categories and Response Frequency for Unemployment Strategies
category responses share (%)
Family Brother, mother, relatives, family, sister, 30
son-in-law, children, daughter, son, sons,
Charity and credit Charity, friends, credit 17
Savings “Damages paid by railroad,” “income 50
from rent,” pension, “pension of $96,”
rents, savings
No plan No response to question 11
note Quotation marks indicate answers given by only one or two respondents.

The results of these logit estimations, reported in Table 9, may

not be surprising, but the statistical estimation supports the com-
mon sense behind the interpretations. The presence of wives in the
labor force, relative to those working at home, made their family’s
reliance on other members, including these working wives, during
the head’s unemployment more likely, and it made their reliance
on charity or credit less likely. It also signiªcantly reduced the
chances of the family lacking a plan to deal with the head’s unem-
ployment. Households headed by a single man were more likely to
depend on family than were married couples with the wife at
The health of heads of household inºuenced couples’ unem-
ployment strategies. Families whose heads of household had missed
a month or more of work due to ill health were less likely to rely on
savings to withstand his unemployment, and more likely to rely on
family or charity. Such families would probably have exhausted
their savings; even an illness lasting little more than a week left
them unable to rely upon savings during unemployment. The du-
ration of unemployment also inºuenced the type of mitigation that
families pursued. Relative to short-term durations (two weeks or
less), long-term ones (twenty or more weeks) reduced families’
ability to rely on savings. After unemployment of ten weeks or
more, they usually had to fall back on resources provided by other
among Negro Americans; for fraternal societies, Theda Skocpol and Jennifer Lynn Oser, “Orga-
nization Despite Adversity: The Origins and Development of African American Fraternal As-
sociations, Social Science History, XXVIII (2004), 367–437; for churches, E. Franklin Frazier,
The Negro Church in America (New York, 1974), 40–43.
Table 9 Series of Logit Regressions of Unemployment Plans
charity or
savings!1; family!1; credit!1; no plan!1;
dependent variable → otherwise!0 otherwise!0; otherwise!0 otherwise!0
Intercept "0.41 "2.64 "0.06 "0.68
"(0.63) "(0.67) "(0.65) "(0.88)

head of household: sex and marital status

Married male head # housewife omitted omitted omitted omitted
Married male head # wife employed "0.19 "1.64 "0.86 "0.96
"(0.34) "(0.52) "(0.47) "(0.40)
Single male head "0.29 "0.70 "0.39 "0.62
"(0.44) "(0.64) "(0.62) "(0.62)
Single female head "0.03 "0.82 "0.25 "0.70
"(0.37) "(0.57) "(0.49) "(0.63)

head of household: health status

Head of household reported no sick days omitted omitted omitted omitted
Sick but number of days missed zero or unknown "0.05 "0.18 "0.03 "1.19
"(0.63) "(0.68) "(0.74) "(0.96)
Days sick 1–7 "0.47 "0.18 "0.37 "1.34
"(0.47) "(0.39) "(0.51) "(0.80)
Days sick 8–28 "0.82 "0.59 "0.07 "0.16
"(0.46) "(0.45) "(0.50) "(0.58)
Days sick 29# "0.86 "1.04 "0.79 "0.21
"(0.36) "(0.37) "(0.52) "(0.60)
head of household: labor-market status
Unemployed for 0–2 weeks omitted omitted omitted omitted
Unemployed weeks unknown !1.85 !0.44 !1.55 !0.22
!(0.96) !(0.68) !(0.79) !(0.84)
2–4 weeks !0.02 !0.26 !1.24 !0.21
!(0.48) !(0.40) !(0.68) !(0.77)
4–10 weeks !0.29 !0.06 !1.04 !0.07
!(0.43) !(0.40) !(0.54) !(0.65)
10–20 weeks !0.23 !0.80 !0.20 !0.96
!(0.37) !(0.37) !(0.52) !(0.83)
20 or more weeks !1.35 !1.00 !0.25 !0.60
!(0.46) !(0.40) !(0.51) !(0.55)

head of household: occupational category and income

Unskilled laborer omitted omitted omitted omitted
Semiskilled !0.18 !0.39 !0.22 !0.33
!(0.32) !(0.33) !(0.36) !(0.55)
Skilled !0.23 !0.18 !0.07 !0.22
!(0.36) !(0.35) !(0.43) !(0.58)
Entrepreneur or professional !0.91 !0.21 !0.28 !1.37
!(0.57) !(0.62) !(0.95) !(0.54)
Weekly wage rate !0.19 !0.10 !0.08 !0.09
!(0.03) !(0.05) !(0.04) !(0.06)
Table 9 (Continued)
charity or
savings!1; family!1; credit!1; no plan!1;
dependent variable → otherwise!0 otherwise!0; otherwise!0 otherwise!0

family, neighborhood, city

Extended family at work "0.59 "0.29 "0.31 "1.29
"(0.40) "(0.44) "(0.57) "(0.71)
Any children at work "0.30 "0.76 "1.20 "0.03
"(0.28) "(0.25) "(0.41) "(0.37)
Any children at school "0.04 "0.12 "0.04 0.54
"(0.37) "(0.33) "(0.29) "(0.38)
Any children at home "0.58 "0.16 "0.59 "0.10
"(0.30) "(0.27) "(0.27) "(0.32)
Good area 0.74 "0.35 "1.95 "0.01
"(0.48) "(0.38) "(0.66) "(0.52)
Own house "0.34 "0.19 "0.55 "0.17
"(0.36) "(0.37) "(0.43) "(0.47)
Atlanta "0.25 "0.21 "0.82 "0.11
"(0.57) "(0.44) "(0.61) "(0.56)
Nashville "0.43 "0.70 "0.42 "2.17
"(0.42) "(0.30) "(0.50) "(0.88)
Elsewhere omitted omitted omitted omitted
Pseudo R "0.24 "0.18 "0.19 "0.14
notes n!402 (sub-sample of those reporting any unemployment). Standard errors estimated by clustering groups (neighborhoods).
A F R IC AN -AM E RI C A N LA B O R S U P P LY | 207
family members—employment, gifts, or loans. During medium-
term unemployment of two to ten weeks, families were less likely
to seek charity or borrow. Weekly wage rates mattered. Heads of
household with higher wages who could save for unemployment
were less likely to seek help from family members than were lower-
waged workers.
Finally, the status of children led families toward different
types of unemployment relief. Those with children who worked
reported that family members—presumably those same children—
aided the family during the head’s unemployment; these families
were less likely to borrow or apply for charity. Families with chil-
dren at home—presumably young ones—were less likely to rely on
savings; they were probably not capable to start saving yet. Families
with children at home were also more likely either to borrow or to
seek charity.

The previously published but not previously analyzed dataset used

herein allows us to inquire into the jointly determined labor-supply
decisions of late nineteenth-century African-American families in
the urban South. Since this survey includes unusual information
about the health of breadwinners and their wives, we can account
for their physical ability to work in assessing these decisions and, in
particular, determine whether these families exhibited signs of the
added worker effect, which is more evident in historical families
than in present-day ones. In fact, the longer that husbands were
unemployed, the higher is the probability that their wives would
be employed. Present-day studies propose that the added worker
effect might also result from assortative matching in the marriage
market rather than explicit labor-supply decisions made by rela-
tively homogeneous couples. We cannot rule out such endogenous
processes with a cross-section, but when we can control for health—
a prominent factor in marital selection—the added worker effect
still appears.
In preparing for unemployment, families surely knew that the
loss of a breadwinner’s source of income was always a possibility.
One way or another, they formulated plans to deal with such a de-
velopment. In the background of such planning was the critical de-
cision to send children to work or to school—depending, in large
part, on the children’s age, which the present dataset does not in-
clude. Yet the work versus school choice must have been heavily
208 | J O H N E . M U R R AY A N D W ER N ER T RO E S K E N

inºuenced by the ability of the household head to obtain pay-

ing work. During the late nineteenth century, urban African-
American families that could place multiple children (possibly adult
children) in the labor market would be able to rely more on this
supplemental income than on their savings, or from charity, when
the head of the household was unemployed.
The families in this study showed an estimable degree of pru-
dence. Despite the Freedman’s Bank disaster, many African Ameri-
cans saved part of their income, at least in some cases, by making
bank deposits, as a precaution against a possible catastrophe of
which they, in one way or another, were painfully aware. Many
families, even those headed by laborers, expected to manage inter-
vals of unemployment by withdrawals from their savings. The
combination of savings, and earnings of other family members—
particularly wives—managed to sustain more than half the families
questioned in the survey when they lost a major source of income.
How the other families in this study would have coped with such
a contingency might have been as much a mystery to them as it is
to us.21

21 For African-American saving, see DuBois, Philadelphia Negro, 191.

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