Dust Bowl Migrants: Identifying an Archetype
The 1930's American Dust Bowl created archetypal "Dust Bowl migrants," refugees from environmental collapse and economic upheaval. I examine this archetype, comparing migration from more-eroded counties and less-eroded counties to distinguish Dust Bowl migrants from other migrants in this era. Migrants from more-eroded counties were more "negatively selected," in years of education, than other migrants who were "positively selected." These Dust Bowl migrants struggled economically, especially in California. Despite migrants' struggles, however, I estimate strikingly modest impacts of the Dust Bowl on average incomes that contrast with its enduring impacts on agricultural land.
For comments and suggestions, I thank Ran Abramitzky, Leah Boustan, Joe Ferrie, Claudia Goldin, Greg Kaplan, Larry Katz, Jonathan Colmer, and seminar participants at Cambridge, Chicago Harris, Harvard, SEA, Toulouse, UIUC, and Wisconsin. For excellent research assistance, I thank Will Cockriel, Peter Hickman, Jamie Lee, Julius Luettge, Joseph Root, Alex Weckenman, and Amy Zeng. For financial support, I thank the Warburg Fund and the Neubauer Family Faculty Fellowship. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.