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The Impact of the Boll Weevil, 1892–1932

Author

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  • Lange, Fabian
  • Olmstead, Alan L.
  • Rhode, Paul W.

Abstract

The boll weevil is America's most celebrated agricultural pest. We analyze new county-level panel data to provide sharp estimates of the time path of the insect's effects on the southern economy. We find that in anticipation of the contact, farmers increased production, attempting to squeeze out one last large crop. Upon arrival, the weevil had a large negative and lasting impact on cotton production, acreage, and especially yields. In response, rather than taking land out of agricultural production, farmers shifted to other crops. We also find striking effects on land values and population movements.

Suggested Citation

  • Lange, Fabian & Olmstead, Alan L. & Rhode, Paul W., 2009. "The Impact of the Boll Weevil, 1892–1932," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(3), pages 685-718, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:69:y:2009:i:03:p:685-718_00
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    Cited by:

    1. Bragança, Arthur Amorim, 2018. "The Economic Consequences of the Agricultural Expansion in Matopiba," Revista Brasileira de Economia - RBE, EPGE Brazilian School of Economics and Finance - FGV EPGE (Brazil), vol. 72(2), June.
    2. Ager, Philipp & Brückner, Markus & Herz, Benedikt, 2014. "Effects of Agricultural Productivity Shocks on Female Labor Supply: Evidence from the Boll Weevil Plague in the US South," MPRA Paper 59410, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Jonathan F. Fox & Price V. Fishback & Paul W. Rhode, 2011. "The Effects of Weather Shocks on Crop Prices in Unfettered Markets: The United States Prior to the Farm Programs, 1895-1932," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 99-130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Stephan E. Maurer & Andrei V. Potlogea, 2017. "Male-biased Demand Shocks and Women’s Labor Force Participation: Evidence from Large Oil Field Discoveries," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2017-08, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    5. Deirdre Bloome & James Feigenbaum & Christopher Muller, 2017. "Tenancy, Marriage, and the Boll Weevil Infestation, 1892–1930," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(3), pages 1029-1049, June.
    6. Dora L. Costa, 2008. "The Rise of Retirement Among African Americans: Wealth and Social Security Effects," NBER Working Papers 14462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Philipp Ager, 2013. "The Persistence of de Facto Power: Elites and Economic Development in the US South, 1840-1960," Working Papers 0038, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    8. Karen Clay & Ethan Schmick & Werner Troesken, 2017. "The Rise and Fall of Pellagra in the American South," NBER Working Papers 23730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ager, Philipp & Brueckner, Markus & Herz, Benedikt, 2017. "The boll weevil plague and its effect on the southern agricultural sector, 1889–1929," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 94-105.
    10. Alan L. Olmstead & Paul W. Rhode, 2011. "Responding to Climatic Challenges: Lessons from U.S. Agricultural Development," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Climate Change: Adaptations Past and Present, pages 169-194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Jung, Yeonha, 2018. "The Legacy of King Cotton: Agricultural Patterns and the Quality of Structural Change," SocArXiv trjfz, Center for Open Science.

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