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Was the African American great migration delayed by outlawing emigrant agents?

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Author Info

  • Kha Yen Prentice

    ()
    (School of Economics, La Trobe University)

  • László Kónya

    ()
    (School of Economics, La Trobe University)

  • David Prentice

    ()
    (School of Economics, La Trobe University)

Abstract

The question of why more African Americans did not migrate earlier out of the stagnant and repressive South after emancipation remains open. Previous work has highlighted the role of demand and supply conditions. At the time, though there was much concern about the role of emigrant agents who actively recruited African Americans to migrate away from their homes such that several states introduced emigrant agent laws to effectively drive them out of business. In this paper we provide the first estimates of the quantitative significance of these agents to African American migration. Specifically, we take advantage of a natural experiment provided by different outcomes in court cases in Georgia and Alabama, which resulted in Alabama being prevented from re-introducing these laws between 1882 and 1903 while Georgia's laws remained. Analyzing gross migration out of the two states, we find that the emigrant agent laws had no direct effect on migration. Though there is some limited evidence that the sensitivity of migration flows to economic differences within the South was lower if an emigrant agent law was in place. This suggests that small changes to the emigrant agentlaws are unlikely to have led to an earlier Great Migration. Interestingly we also find that the increase in migration began before 1920 which provides some support for the supply-based explanations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by School of Economics, La Trobe University in its series Working Papers with number 2013.06.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:trb:wpaper:2013.06

Note: ISSN-1837-2198
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Keywords: Great Migration; Emigrant Agents; Gravity Models; African Americans; Southern Labor Markets; Labor Market Regulation.;

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  1. James E. Anderson, 2011. "The Gravity Model," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 3(1), pages 133-160, 09.
  2. Nathan J. Ashby, 2007. "Economic Freedom and Migration Flows between U.S. States," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 677–697, January.
  3. Suresh Naidu, 2010. "Recruitment Restrictions and Labor Markets: Evidence from the Postbellum U.S. South," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(2), pages 413-445, 04.
  4. Collins, Wiiliam J., 1997. "When the Tide Turned: Immigration and the Delay of the Great Black Migration," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(03), pages 607-632, September.
  5. Greenwood, Michael J, 1975. "Research on Internal Migration in the United States: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 397-433, June.
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