Why were slave families broken up when doing so increased the likelihood of runaways? A key piece of this long-standing puzzle is that most break-ups occurred as the result of government-generated slave sales (e.g., probate and bankruptcy-related sales at public auctions), whereas purely private exchanges, including commercial auctions, tended to maintain family units.

Bradley T. Ewing is the Jerry S. Rawls Professor in Operations Management at Texas Tech University.
Mark Thornton is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Mark A. Yanochik is an associate professor of economics at Georgia Southern University
American HistoryCivil Liberties and Human RightsCivil RightsCulture and SocietyLaw and LibertyRace Issues
Other Independent Review articles by Mark Thornton
Spring 2014 Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America
Spring 2013 American Nightmare: How Government Undermines the Dream of Homeownership
Summer 2010 Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation
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