The Impact of an Environmental Shock on Black-White Inequality: Evidence from the Boll Weevil
This paper estimates the causal effect of the boll weevil on home ownership, wages, and intergenerational mobility of Black and White sons born around the time of its arrival. The boll weevil resulted in a negative shock to cotton production and a positive shock to food-related agricultural products. Using a linked data set of fathers and sons, we find Black sons born after the weevil’s arrival experienced large relative gains in outcomes. The paper discusses a number of mechanisms and provides evidence on two related mechanisms: relative improvements in Black fathers’ income ranks and improvements in Black sons’ early-life conditions.