If black Americans get reparations for their stolen land…

… do they have to then turn the money over to Native Americans? (perhaps allocated by Sachem Elizabeth Warren?)

“Black People’s Land Was Stolen” (NYT):

in addition to invoking the 40 acres black people never got, the reparations movement today should be talking about the approximately 11 million acres black people had but lost, in many cases through fraud, deception and outright theft, much of it taken in the past 50 years.

These property holdings could have provided a foundation for black wealth-building in post-Jim Crow America. Instead, they became a source of riches for others. Rather than helping to close the racial wealth gap, blacks’ landholdings became a key force in widening it.

By 1910, black people claimed ownership of nearly 16 million acres in America.

As often, though, whites undermined black property ownership by more subtle means. White tax assessors routinely overvalued black-owned land, forcing black property owners to bear a heavier tax burden than whites (to pay for services they didn’t receive) and slowly draining families of earnings. If black-owned property became valuable or a black property owner challenged white supremacy, local officials could simply declare the property tax-delinquent and sell it at a tax sale.

These continuing practices, more than the government’s broken promise of 40 acres and a mule 150 years ago, explain why black families today have 10 cents to every dollar held by white households and why that gap continues to widen.

Suppose all of the above is true. Wouldn’t it make more sense to restore land ownership to the Native Americans?

[Separately, the idea that multi-generational wealth can be assured with a one-time injection of land has been tested in the U.S. and is chronicled in the book The Son Also Rises. From a chapter of Real World Divorce:

Is the focus on cash transfers for the benefit of children supported by research? “What Happens When We Randomly Assign Children to Families?” (Sacerdote 2004; National Bureau of Economic Research), a study of Korean children adopted by American parents, suggests not. It turns out that there was a low correlation between the ultimate income of a child and the income of the parents. Adoptees brought into homes with $25,000 per year in income had the same family income, as adults, as adoptees who had grown up in homes with $200,000 per year in income. There is a stronger correlation between the income of biological children and their parents, suggesting that genetics is more important than environment when it comes to career attainment.

The Son also Rises (Clark 2014; Princeton University Press) contains a survey of the academic literature regarding the effect of family wealth and unearned cash transfers on children. In 1832 there was a land lottery in Georgia where winners received a parcel of land roughly equal in value to the median family wealth at the time (i.e., the typical winners ended up with twice as much wealth, about $150,000 extra in today’s money). How did the children of the winners do?

They were no more literate than the children of losers. Their occupational status was no higher. Their own children in 1880 (the grandchildren of the 1832 winners) were again no more literate. Worse, they were significantly less likely to be enrolled in school than the grandchildren of the losers. … Wealth is not statistically higher for lottery winners’ children…

Clark also reviews a study of Cherokee Indians who, starting in 1998, received substantial boosts to their income from casino profits. For children who had not been living in poverty, “there was no measurable change in any educational outcomes, including high school graduation rates…” This was despite the fact that a child who graduated high school would immediately become eligible for his or her own $4,000-per-year payment.

The professor writing for the NYT, Andrew Kahrl, states confidently that black Americans today would be way richer if ancestors had obtained all of the land that they were promised 150 years ago, but he cites no research to bolster his opinion.]

Finally, I think it is interesting that the New York Times publishes a piece in which annual property tax is characterized as a slow draining away of rightfully obtained wealth!

One thought on “If black Americans get reparations for their stolen land…

  1. Finally, I think it is interesting that the New York Times publishes a piece in which annual property tax is characterized as a slow draining away of rightfully obtained wealth!

    Yeah, it quickly demolishes any arguments that a wealth tax would be a horrible new idea when most households are already paying wealth taxes!

Comments are closed.