A Lucrative End: Abolition, Immigration, and the New Occupational Hierarchy in Southeast Brazil

Abstract: Impending abolition of slavery in Brazil during the late nineteenth century meant the potential shortage of labor for southeast coffee planters. In preparation, the province of São Paulo subsidized, in part and then in full, the travel expenses of Europeans who migrated there. To what extent was the program successful in capping the wage bill of planters after emancipation? How did the occupational distribution by race change as compared to other regions without such a program? Consolidated evidence on wages and the value of output indicates that the return to labor actually increased after abolition, as did rural and urban employment segregation in favor of whites over blacks; in contrast, economic growth elsewhere in the Americas was more subdued and alternatives like sharecropping prevailed. This work integrates the traditional immigration literature with recent Afro-Brazilianist perspectives: New earnings estimates confirm that Europeans were exploited to nearly the same extent as slaves, yet non-monetary benefits and racism may have supported the former group’s opportunities for social mobility.