Clock time versus real time: A comparison of the lengths of the Northern and Southern agricultural work years

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Book Chapter

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African American Studies | Arts and Humanities | Economics | History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | United States History


“There is a general belief that slaves in the antebellum South worked more hours per year than northern free farmers.[…]The determination of the nature of the reallocation of time between labor and leisure brought about by slavery, as well as the resolution of the issue of potential bias in Fogel and Engerman’s measurement of the index of relative efficiency, requires a closer examination of the conditions of farm labor during the late antebellum era and estimates of the agricultural work years in the North and the South. After a discussion in the next section of some of the factors that influence the length, pattern, and intensity of the agricultural work year, estimates of the work year for slaves in the South and for northern free farmers are presented. These estimates do not support the belief of a relatively longer work year in the South, but indicate that slaves worked about 10 percent fewer hours per year than northern free farmers. The final section provides an explanation of this result.” (pages 216-217)