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Working Paper



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We study the persistent and adverse effects of colonial ethno-racial segregation on modern urban sorting patterns. After the conquest of Mesoamerica, Spaniards segregated natives into settlements called Pueblos de Indios. By the end of colonial times, there were two types of settlements: Pueblos with Indigenous inhabitants only and Pueblos with populations of diverse ancestry. We estimate the causal impacts of Pueblos and the degree of success in the segregation policy on modern outcomes within cities. We combine a research design that purges unobserved spatial heterogeneity with a novel instrumental variable to deal with endogeneity. We show that urban areas closer to segregated Pueblos have lower levels of human capital relative to blocks near Pueblos with multi-ancestry individuals. While segregated Pueblos do not lead to modern agglomerations of Indigenous or Afro-Mexican individuals, mixed-race individuals with darker skin tones gather around former Pueblos where segregation was successful. We also find that individuals living nearby such areas have lower intergenerational mobility. We conclude that colonial segregation shifts from a targeted ethno-racial group to individuals who currently have markers of low socioeconomic status or specific phenotypes in Mexico.

Publisher Statement

This is a working paper. If you have questions, please contact Luis Baldomero-Quintana at