Public Choice

, Volume 153, Issue 1–2, pp 37–54 | Cite as

Why fight secession? Evidence of economic motivations from the American Civil War

  • Zachary LiscowEmail author
Open Access


Why fight secession? This paper is a case study on this question, asking why the North chose to fight the South in the American Civil War. It tests a theoretical prediction that economic motivations were important, using county-level presidential election data. If economic interests like manufacturing wished to keep the Union together, they should have generated votes to do so. That prediction is borne out by the data, and explanations other than Northern economic concerns about Southern secession appear unable to explain the results, suggesting that economic motivations were important to support for fighting the South.


Voting War Secession American Civil War 

JEL Classification

D72 H77 N41 


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© The Author(s) 2011

Open AccessThis is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (, which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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