When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South
In the American South, post-bellum economic stagnation has been partially attributed to white landowners' access to low-wage black labor; indeed, Southern economic convergence from 1940 to 1970 was associated with substantial black out-migration. This paper examines the impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 on agricultural development. Flooded counties experienced an immediate and persistent out-migration of black population. Over time, landowners in flooded counties dramatically mechanized and modernized agricultural production relative to landowners in nearby similar non-flooded counties. Landowners resisted black out-migration, however, benefiting from the status quo system of labor-intensive agricultural production.
For comments and suggestions, we thank Ran Abramitzky, Daron Acemoglu, Lee Alston, Hoyt Bleakley, Leah Boustan, Bill Collins, Paul David, Dave Donaldson, Price Fishback, Claudia Goldin, Larry Katz, Paul Rhode, Andrei Shleifer, Jeff Vincent, Gavin Wright, and seminar participants at AEA, Arizona, BREAD, Columbia, CIFAR, Pittsburgh, Harvard, NBER, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UC San Diego. For financial support, we thank CIFAR and the WCFIA's Project on Justice, Welfare, and Economics. Tom Beckford, James Feigenbaum, Lillian Fine, Andrew Das Sarma, and Leo Schwartz provided excellent research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research. For financial support, we thank CIFAR and the WCFIA's Project on Justice, Welfare, and Economics.
Richard Hornbeck & Suresh Naidu, 2014. "When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 963-90, March. citation courtesy of