Although white women have only recently entered the work force, their black counterparts have participated throughout American history. Differences between their rates of participation have been recorded only for the post-1890 period and analyzed only for the post-1940 period due to a lack of available data. To remedy this deficiency my work explores female labor supply at the dawn of emanicipation, 1870 and 1880, in seven southern cities, using data drawn from the manuscripts of the population census. Probit regression techniques demonstrate that economic and demographic variables explain only part of the difference between black and white women and, as in the findings of contemporary research, race is shown to be an important factor. Several explanations are discussed, in particular one relying on socialization differences which are termed a “legacy of slavery.”
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