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Migration as Disaster Relief: Lessons from the Great Irish Famine

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  • O'Gráda, Cormac
  • O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj

Abstract

Mass emigration was one key feature of the Great Irish Famine which distinguishes it from today’s famines. By bringing famine victims to overseas food supplies, it undoubtedly saved many lives. Poverty traps prevented those most in need from availing of this form of relief, however. Cross-county data show that the ratio of emigration to deaths was higher in richer than in poorer counties. Another key feature of the Famine emigration was that it was irreversible. The Famine thus had a permanent impact on Ireland’s population and economy, whereas typically famines only reduce population in a transitory fashion. Famine emigration spurred post-Famine emigration by eliminating poverty traps; the result was a sustained decline in the Irish population, and a convergence of living standards both within Ireland and between Ireland and the rest of the world.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Gráda, Cormac & O'Rourke, Kevin Hjortshøj, 1996. "Migration as Disaster Relief: Lessons from the Great Irish Famine," CEPR Discussion Papers 1462, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:1462
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Joel Mokyr & Cormac Ó Gráda, 1984. "New Developments in Irish Population History, 1700-1850," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 37(4), pages 473-488, November.
    2. Todaro, Michael P, 1969. "A Model for Labor Migration and Urban Unemployment in Less Developed Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(1), pages 138-148, March.
    3. Mokyr, Joel & Grada, Cormac O, 1982. "Emigration and poverty in prefamine Ireland," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 360-384, October.
    4. Hatton, Timothy J. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 1993. "After the Famine: Emigration from Ireland, 1850–1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 575-600, September.
    5. Robert Summers & Alan Heston, 1991. "The Penn World Table (Mark 5): An Expanded Set of International Comparisons, 1950–1988," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(2), pages 327-368.
    6. Katz, Eliakim & Stark, Oded, 1989. "International labour migration under alternative informational regimes: A diagrammatic analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 127-142, January.
    7. Cormac Ó Gráda, 1995. "The great Irish famine," Open Access publications 10197/363, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    8. Cohn, Raymond L., 1984. "Mortality on Immigrant Voyages to New York, 1836–1853," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(02), pages 289-300, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Noy, Ilan, 2012. "Natural disasters and economic policy for the Pacific Rim," Working Paper Series 2088, Victoria University of Wellington, School of Economics and Finance.
    2. Deschacht, Nick & Winter, Anne, 2015. "Rural crisis and rural exodus? Local migration dynamics during the crisis of the 1840s in Flanders (Belgium)," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 32-52.
    3. Kevin H. O'Rourke, 2003. "The Era of Free Migration: Lessons for Today," Trinity Economics Papers 200315, Trinity College Dublin, Department of Economics.
    4. Cormac Ó Gráda & Tim Dyson, 2001. "Famine demography : an introduction," Working Papers 200125, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    5. Cormac Ó Gráda, 2007. "Making Famine History," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, pages 5-38.
    6. Curran, Declan & Fröling, Maria, 2010. "Large-scale mortality shocks and the Great Irish Famine 1845-1852," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1302-1314, September.
    7. Bandiera, Oriana & Rasul, Imran & Viarengo, Martina, 2013. "The Making of Modern America: Migratory Flows in the Age of Mass Migration," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 23-47.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Famine; Migration;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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