NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Long-run Impacts of Agricultural Shocks on Educational Attainment: Evidence from the Boll Weevil

Richard B. Baker, John Blanchette, Katherine Eriksson

NBER Working Paper No. 25400
Issued in December 2018
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

The boll weevil spread across the Southern United States from 1892 to 1922 having a devastating impact on cotton cultivation. The resulting shift away from this child labor–intensive crop lowered the opportunity cost of attending school, and thus the pest increased school enrollment and attendance. We investigate the insect’s long run affect on educational attainment using a sample of adults in 1940 linked back to themselves in childhood in the county in which they were likely educated. Both whites and blacks who were young (ages 4 to 9) when the boll weevil arrived saw increased educational attainment by 0.25 to 0.35 years. These findings are not driven by concurrent shocks and are not sensitive to linking method or sample selection. Our results demonstrate the potential for conflict between child labor in agriculture and educational attainment.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25400

 
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