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Time on the Ladder: Career Mobility in Agriculture, 1890 1938

  • ALSTON, LEE J.
  • FERRIE, JOSEPH P.

We explore the dynamics of the agricultural ladder for black farmers in the U.S. South using individual-level data from a retrospective survey conducted in 1938 in Jefferson County, Arkansas. We develop and test hypotheses to explain the time spent as a tenant, sharecropper, and wage laborer. The most striking result of our analysis is the importance of individual characteristics in career mobility. In all periods pre World War I; the war years, and subsequent boom; the 1920s; and the Great Depression years some farmers moved up the agricultural ladder quite rapidly while others remained stuck on a rung.Movement from rung to rung has been predominantly in the direction of descent rather than ascent. There is an increasing tendency for the rungs of the ladder to become bars forcing imprisonment in a fixed social status from which it is increasingly difficult to escape.National Resources CommitteeNational Resources Committee, Report.

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Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 65 (2005)
Issue (Month): 04 (December)
Pages: 1058-1081

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:65:y:2005:i:04:p:1058-1081_00
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  1. Allen, Douglas W & Lueck, Dean, 1999. "The Role of Risk in Contract Choice," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 704-36, October.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2001. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1936, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Giacomo Bonanno & John Roemer & Louis Putterman & Wen Hai & Shunli Yao, 2003. "Does Egalitarianism Have a Future?," Working Papers 969, University of California, Davis, Department of Economics.
  4. Robert Gibbons, 1996. "Incentives and Careers in Organizations," NBER Working Papers 5705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Eswaran, Mukesh & Kotwal, Ashok, 1985. "A Theory of Contractual Structure in Agriculture," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(3), pages 352-67, June.
  6. White, Halbert, 1982. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Misspecified Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, January.
  7. Alston, Lee J & Datta, Samar K & Nugent, Jeffrey B, 1984. "Tenancy Choice in a Competitive Framework with Transactions Costs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(6), pages 1121-33, December.
  8. Higgs, Robert, 1974. "Patterns of Farm Rental in the Georgia Cotton Belt, 1880–1900," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 34(02), pages 468-482, June.
  9. Whatley, Warren C., 1983. "Labor for the Picking: the New Deal in the South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(04), pages 905-929, December.
  10. Douglas W. Allen & Dean Lueck, 1993. "Transaction Costs and the Design of Cropshare Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(1), pages 78-100, Spring.
  11. Allen, Douglas & Lueck, Dean, 1992. "Contract Choice in Modern Agriculture: Cash Rent versus Cropshare," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(2), pages 397-426, October.
  12. Kauffman Kyle D., 1993. "Why Was the Mule Used in Southern Agriculture? Empirical Evidence of Principal-Agent Solutions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 336-351, July.
  13. Alston, Lee J. & Higgs, Robert, 1982. "Contractual Mix in Southern Agriculture since the Civil War: Facts, Hypotheses, and Tests," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 42(02), pages 327-353, June.
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