Have there been studies of the impact on the southern economy of the freeing of slaves?

It’s intuitive that depriving the plantation owners of a large part of their “property” should have had a major impact on the southern economy.

Have there been historical economic analyses of the impact? Is it possible to isolate that factor from the effects of the Civil War generally (e.g. Sherman’s March; war costs; loss of thousands of young men)?

The immediate impact was probably dulled by the sharecropping system: In effect, slavery continued, just under a different name.

In general the first order effect of invalidating property rights is zero. Somebody has property taken, but it’s given to somebody else. In this case the ‘property’ is given to the persons who were slaves, ‘ownership’ of themselves (as we now judge a moral necessity regardless of economics, but here just talking the economic aspect).

The negative effect, in case of physical or real property taken by a govt say, is not that somebody loses property, the public gains it. The negatives are the disincentive to produce more wealth (it might then also be taken, so why bother?) and the existing wealth taken may be mismanaged by the political system, ‘what’s everyone’s is nobody’s’.

In case of a freeing slaves both those negatives are less likely. The law is being specifically changed to make it 100% clear you can’t then accumulate new slaves, and a special rule not applying to other property so less reason to fear other new property also will be taken. And, instead of the assets taken being managed by people with less incentive to maximize their value (the political system), the ‘assets’ are being managed by the people with the greatest interest in maximizing their value, people themselves who are freed.

So arguably a peaceful end to slavery in the US South would have had a positive economic effect even in the shorter run. It would not have instantly transformed the economic lives of the former slaves, necessarily. The previous system had deliberately limited their education and training: their skills were not worth that much as free people, initially. Then the racial caste system which prevailed especially after Reconstruction interfered with solving that problem. But to make two counter historical assumptions, that slavery was abolished peacefully and genuine equality was granted to the freed people, it’s reasonable to think that the productivity of black workers would have increased more rapidly, and Southern economic progress would have been more rapid.

A lot of the problem in actual history was that vast amounts of non-slave capital had been destroyed by the war, and many relatively more skilled and educated whites of military age had been killed or crippled. Besides social upheaval and a post-Reconstruction social system which was economically harmful. Not necessarily any of the South’s economic backwardness post-ACW was directly due to slavery having been abolished, per se, rather other events that surrounded and followed it.