If Democrats got their way and reparations were to be paid to descendants of slaves, it would be very costly.
Many expert researchers have tried to place a dollar figure on the economic cost associated with hundreds of years of free labor, and accumulated wealth Southerners gained from enslaving blacks.
William Darity, a public policy professor at Duke University, who has researched reparations for decades with Professor Dania Francis at UMass Amherst, argue that any reparations paid should also be tax-free, because of the nearly 100 years that black people paid taxes “while being disenfranchised in the U.S. South, a paradigmatic case of ‘taxation without representation.’”
In the essay collection “Wealth of Races,” several researchers tried to calculate the cost or “present value of benefits from past injustices.” Roger Ransom and Richard Sutch calculated that cost to be $3.4 billion between 1810 and 1860. In 2019, that would come to roughly $8.5 billion.
Economist Larry Neal tried to tabulate the price tag of unpaid wages to slaves from 1620 to 1840. In 1983 when he calculated the number, he estimated that slaves were owed $1.4 trillion in unpaid wages, or $3.6 trillion today. Economist James Marketti estimated that unpaid wages totaled somewhere between $3 trillion and $5 trillion dollars — again in 1983. Today, when accounting for inflation that number leaps to $7.7 trillion to $12.9 trillion.
But these costs do not include the lingering economic impact of Jim Crow and current discrimination that black people face in the labor market, health care system, or education and criminal justice systems. According to “The Economics of Reparations,” that figure stands at an additional $1.3 trillion to $4.2 trillion today.
When totaling Economist James Marketti’s estimates along with restitution costs for racial injustice since the end of slavery, reparations could range from $9 to $17.1 trillion.
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