The Intergenerational Impacts of Reparations: Evidence from the Eastern Cherokees


Mencoff Hall 205

Achyuta Adhvaryu, Assistant Professor of Economics, University of Michigan

Abstract: Can reparations alter the life trajectories and improve the economic well-being of people from historically disadvantaged groups? While proponents claim that reparations can help narrow path-dependent racial disparities, there is little causal evidence on this issue. We aim to answer this question by studying the experience of Eastern Cherokees, who were forced to migrate to newly designated reserves in the 1830s. Nearly 75 years later, in 1905, the U.S. Court of Claims awarded substantial financial reparations to victims of the forced removal and their surviving descendants. By combining digitized data from application records for these funds with full-count census data from 1900 to 1940, we can estimate the immediate and long-run impacts of these payments on beneficiaries and their children. Our method compares reparations recipients with a counterfactual group whose applications were rejected for plausibly exogenous reasons. Outcomes of interest include education, employment, income, migration, mortality, and racial identification.

Bio: Achyuta Adhvaryu is the Alexander M. Nick Professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. He is also the co-founder of Good Business Lab, a global nonprofit focused on rigorous research and action at the intersection of worker wellbeing and business interests. His research focuses on firm decision-making and productivity in emerging markets, healthcare delivery in low-income contexts, and the long-run economic impacts of early life events, with extensive work across East and West Africa, South Asia, Mexico, and the United States. He received his PhD in economics from Yale University.

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