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

  • Richard Hornbeck
  • Suresh Naidu

In the American South, post-bellum economic stagnation has been partially attributed to white landowners' access to low-wage black labor; indeed, Southern economic convergence from 1940 to 1970 was associated with substantial black out-migration. This paper examines the impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 on agricultural development. Flooded counties experienced an immediate and persistent out-migration of black population. Over time, landowners in flooded counties dramatically mechanized and modernized agricultural production 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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18296.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Publication status: published as 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 963-90, March.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18296
Note: DAE EFG
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