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American Economic Review: Vol. 104 No. 3 (March 2014)

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

Article Citation

Hornbeck, Richard, and Suresh Naidu. 2014. "When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South." American Economic Review, 104(3): 963-90.

DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.3.963

Abstract

In the American South, post-bellum economic development may have been restricted in part by white landowners' access to low-wage black labor. This paper examines the impact of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 on black out-migration and subsequent agricultural development. Flooded counties experienced an immediate and persistent out-migration of black population. Over time, landowners in flooded counties modernized agricultural production and increased its capital intensity 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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Authors

Hornbeck, Richard (Harvard U)
Naidu, Suresh (Columbia U)

JEL Classifications

J15: Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
J43: Agricultural Labor Markets
N32: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
N52: Economic History: Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment, and Extractive Industries: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
N92: Regional and Urban History: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
Q54: Climate; Natural Disasters; Global Warming
R23: Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics: Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population; Neighborhood Characteristics


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