Do Federal Programs Affect Internal Migration? The Impact of New Deal Expenditures on Mobility During the Great Depression

Price V. Fishback, William C. Horrace, Shawn Kantor

NBER Working Paper No. 8283
Issued in May 2001
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Public Economics

** Revised version 2005**

Using a recently-uncovered data set that describes over 30 federal New Deal spending, loan, and mortgage insurance programs across all U.S. counties from 1933 to 1939, this paper empirically examines the New Deal's impact on inter-county migration from 1930 to 1940. We construct a net migration measure for each county as the difference between the Census's reported population change from 1930 to 1940 and the natural increase in population (births minus infant deaths minus non-infant deaths) over the same period. Our empirical approach accounts for both the simultaneity between New Deal allocations and migration and the geographic spillovers that likely resulted when spending in one county may have affected the migration decisions of people in neighboring counties. We find that greater spending on relief and public works and a larger value of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration were all associated with migration into counties where such money was allocated. The FHA's stimulus to the housing industry and large-scale public works projects explain most of the regional variation in migration rates across the country. New Deal loans and agricultural spending to take land out of production had negligible effects on migration patterns.

download in pdf format
   (390 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8283

Published: Fishback, Price V., William C. Horrace and Shawn Kantor. "The Impact Of New Deal Expenditures On Mobility During The Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, 2006, v43(2,Apr), 179-222.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Boustan, Fishback, and Kantor w13276 The Effect of Internal Migration on Local Labor Markets: American Cities During the Great Depression
Fishback, Horrace, and Kantor w8108 The Impact of New Deal Expenditures on Local Economic Activity: An Examination of Retail Sales, 1929-1939
Sorensen, Fishback, Allen, and Kantor w13491 Migration Creation, Diversion, and Retention: New Deal Grants and Migration: 1935-1940
Borjas, Bronars, and Trejo w4002 Self-Selection and Internal Migration in the United States
Borjas w11610 Native Internal Migration and the Labor Market Impact of Immigration
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us