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When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South

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  • Richard Hornbeck
  • Suresh Naidu

Abstract

In the American South, post-bellum economic development may have been restricted in part by white landowners' access to low-wage black labor. This paper examines the impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 on black out-migration and subsequent agricultural development. Flooded counties experienced an immediate and persistent out-migration of black population. Over time, landowners in flooded counties modernized agricultural production and increased its capital intensity relative to landowners in nearby similar non-flooded counties. Landowners resisted black out-migration, however, benefiting from the status quo system of labor-intensive agricultural production.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Hornbeck & Suresh Naidu, 2014. "When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(3), pages 963-990, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:104:y:2014:i:3:p:963-90
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.3.963
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N52 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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