Melinda Miller

Assistant Professor
United States Naval Academy

After earning a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan, Melinda Miller became an assistant professor of economics at the United States Naval Academy. Her research focuses on the origins of economic racial inequality in the United States. In particular, she examines how postbellum land policy could have potentially altered the course of American racial economic inequality. Her research addresses this issue by considering the impact of free land on former slaves. Her dissertation on the Cherokee freedmen won the Nevins Prize from the Economic History Association.

My Grants

Following the Civil War, slaves were freed with hopes of obtaining “forty acres and a mule.” While these dreams were not fulfilled, the Southern Homestead Act provided some former slaves the opportunity to achieve land ownership. However, little is known about the SHA’s effect on those first black homesteaders. This project will follow these people from when they first applied for their land until 1900 and learn how access to free land influenced their economic progress. While economic inequality is often viewed as insurmountable, the past offers valuable examples of policies that could potentially reduce inequality. Understanding what did or did not influence economic inequality historically can guide policies today.