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The New Deal and the Modernization of the South


  • Gavin Wright

    (Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, Stanford University)


This paper considers the impact of New Deal programs on the economy of the American South. Through investments in infrastructure (roads and electric power), environmental improvements (reforestation and soil conservation), and advances in public health (sanitation facilities and disease eradication), the federal government kickstarted modern economic development in the South. Although World War II is often identified as the turning point for regional growth, it is argued that wartime policies were a continuation of the region-building programs of the 1930s. There was no automatic connection, however, between economic modernization and liberalization of the South’s racial regime, which if anything became even more entrenched during this era. This perhaps-surprising proposition may be illustrated by an examination of two showcase New Deal programs: the TVA and the GI Bill.

Suggested Citation

  • Gavin Wright, 2009. "The New Deal and the Modernization of the South," Discussion Papers 08-042, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:sip:dpaper:08-042

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    More about this item


    New Deal; American South; infrastructure; TVA; GI Bill;

    JEL classification:

    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N62 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N92 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-


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