The South, Slavery, and Competition in Early US House Elections

Frank C. Thames, Seth C. McKee, Richard McKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study of the early US Congress (First through Nineteenth: 1789-1827), we assess the impact of slavery on the electoral competitiveness of House elections. Slavery and other forms of labor repressive agriculture have long been known to undermine democracy. Using district-level measures of electoral competitiveness and slavery, we find that a higher percentage of slaves in a district negatively impacts competition, even when we limit our models to Southern elections. Our findings indicate that from the nation's founding up to the age of Andrew Jackson, slavery strongly accounts for a pronounced disparity in the competitiveness of House elections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-729
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Science History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


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