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The Enduring Impact of the American Dust Bowl: Short- and Long-Run Adjustments to Environmental Catastrophe

  • Richard Hornbeck

The 1930s American Dust Bowl was an environmental catastrophe that greatly eroded sections of the Plains. The Dust Bowl is estimated to have immediately, substantially, and persistently reduced agricultural land values and revenues in more-eroded counties relative to less-eroded counties. During the Depression and through at least the 1950s, there was limited relative adjustment of farmland away from activities that became relatively less productive in more-eroded areas. Agricultural adjustments recovered less than 25 percent of the initial difference in agricultural costs for more-eroded counties. The economy adjusted predominantly through large relative population declines in more-eroded counties, both during the 1930s and through the 1950s. (JEL N32, N52, Q15, Q18, Q54)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (June)
Pages: 1477-1507

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:4:p:1477-1507
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