NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Time on the Ladder: Career Mobility in Agriculture, 1890-1938

Lee J. Alston, Joseph P. Ferrie

NBER Working Paper No. 11231
Issued in March 2005
NBER Program(s):   DAE

We explore the dynamics of the agricultural ladder (the progression from laborer to cropper to renter) in the U.S. before 1940 using individual-level data from a survey of farmers conducted in 1938 in Jefferson County, Arkansas. Using information on each individual's complete career history (their tenure status at each date, in some cases as far back as 1890), their location, and a variety of their personal and farm characteristics, we develop and test hypotheses to explain the time spent as a tenant, sharecropper, and wage laborer. The pessimistic view of commentators who saw sharecropping and tenancy as a trap has some merit, but individual characteristics played an important role in mobility. In all periods, some farmers moved up the agricultural ladder quite rapidly while others remained stuck on a rung. Ascending the ladder was an important route to upward mobility, particularly for blacks, before large-scale migration from rural to urban places.

download in pdf format
   (1863 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (1863 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11231

Published: Alston, Lee J. and Joseph P. Ferrie. "Time On The Ladder: Career Mobility In Agriculture, 1890-1938," Journal of Economic History, 2005, v65(4,Dec), 1058-1081.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
LaFrance, Pope, and Tack w16716 Risk Response in Agriculture
Krueger and Perri On the Welfare Consequences of the Increase in Inequality in the United States
Ferrie w11324 The End of American Exceptionalism? Mobility in the U.S. Since 1850
Alston and Mueller w15771 Property Rights, Land Conflict and Tenancy in Brazil
Munshi and Rosenzweig w14850 Why is Mobility in India so Low? Social Insurance, Inequality, and Growth
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us