Changes in Black-White Inequality: Evidence from the Boll Weevil
This paper investigates the effect of a large negative agricultural shock, the boll weevil, on black-white inequality in the first half of the twentieth century. To do this we use complete count census data to generate a linked sample of fathers and their sons. We find that the boll weevil induced enormous labor market and social disruption as more than half of black and white fathers moved to other counties following the arrival of the weevil. The shock impacted black and white sons differently. We compare sons whose fathers initially resided in the same county and find that white sons born after the boll weevil had similar wages and schooling outcomes to white sons born prior to its arrival. In contrast, black sons born after the boll weevil had significantly higher wages and years of schooling, narrowing the black-white wage and schooling gaps. This decrease appears to have been driven by relative improvements in early life conditions and access to schooling both for sons of black fathers that migrated out of the South and sons of black fathers that stayed in the South.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27101