Institutional Affiliation: Harvard University
NBER Working Papers and Publications
|May 2020||When Coercive Economies Fail: The Political Economy of the US South After the Boll Weevil|
with James J. Feigenbaum, Cory B. Smith: w27161
How do coercive societies respond to negative economic shocks? We explore this question in the early 20th-Century United States South. Since before the nation's founding, cotton cultivation formed the politics and institutions in the South, including the development of slavery, the lack of democratic institutions, and intergroup relations between whites and blacks. We leverage the natural experiment generated by the boll weevil infestation from 1892-1922, which disrupted cotton production in the region. Panel difference-in-differences results provide evidence that Southern society became less violent and repressive in response to this shock with fewer lynchings and less Confederate monument construction. Cross-sectional results leveraging spatial variation in the infestation and historical...