Discussion paper

DP18200 The Confederate Diaspora

This paper shows how white migration out of the postbellum South diffused and entrenched Confederate culture across the United States at a critical juncture of westward expansion and postwar reconciliation. These migrants laid the groundwork for Confederate symbols and racial norms to become pervasive nationally in the early 20th century. Occupying positions of authority, former slaveholders played an outsized role in this process. Beyond memorializing the Confederacy, migrants exacerbated racial violence, boosted novel forms of exclusion, and compounded Black disadvantage outside the South. Moving West, former Confederates had larger effects in frontier communities lacking established culture and institutions. Over time, they continued to transmit norms to their children and non-Southern neighbors. The diaspora legacy persists over the long run, shaping racial inequities in labor, housing, and policing. Together, our findings offer a new perspective on migration, elite influence, and the interplay between culture and institutions in the nation-building process.


Bazzi, S, A Ferrara, M Fiszbein, T Pearson and P Testa (2023), ‘DP18200 The Confederate Diaspora‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18200. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18200