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Migrant Selection and Sorting during the Great American Drought

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  • Sichko, Christopher

Abstract

Migration is among the most basic adaptation methods to inhospitable environments and has large economic consequences for both migrants and the broader economy. To estimate the impact of the worst drought in U.S. history on migration, I match 1940 census data with county-level drought conditions. I find that drought substantially increased migration rates for individuals with a 12th grade education or higher but had little impact on migration rates for people with less education. This differential migration response to drought by education was most pronounced in counties with larger economic downturns during the Great Depression, consistent with the hypothesis that individual liquidity constraints limited migration for people with lower human capital. In terms of where migrants went, I show that the majority of migrants in the late 1930s relocated to rural destinations. In fact, migrants from drought counties were less likely to relocate to cities compared to similar migrants from non-drought counties. These findings detail the impact of widespread drought for Depression-era migration and document the central role of individual human capital in the uptake of migration from climate shocks.

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  • Sichko, Christopher, 2021. "Migrant Selection and Sorting during the Great American Drought," SocArXiv wm2p3, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:wm2p3
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/wm2p3
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    Cited by:

    1. Zimran, Ariell, 2022. "US immigrants’ secondary migration and geographic assimilation during the Age of Mass Migration," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 85(C).
    2. Sichko, Christopher T., 2023. "Drought and Migration during the Great Depression," 2023 Annual Meeting, July 23-25, Washington D.C. 335558, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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