, Volume 83, Issue 2, pp 305–317 | Cite as

Retail enterprise across American regions: the role of black population size in the late nineteenth-century United States

  • Robert L. Boyd


Building on the idea that small-scale entrepreneurship often takes place in peripheral regions, the present study examines retail enterprise in the late nineteenth-century U.S., focusing on ethnic group differences across the North, South, and West. Applying theories of middleman minorities and internal colonialism, the study proposes that European immigrants and native whites had their highest retail enterprise levels in the South, where large, oppressed black populations were compelled to patronize non-black merchants, owing to a dearth of black retail proprietors. Multiple regression analyses of Census data support this proposition, calling attention to the importance of black population size as a heretofore neglected factor in regional variation in retail enterprise among European immigrants and native whites in late nineteenth-century America.


American regions Black population size Retail entrepreneurship Late nineteenth-century U.S 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

No potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Human and animal rights

The research did not involve human subjects or animals.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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