Can You Move to Opportunity? Evidence from the Great Migration
- American Economic Review (Forthcoming)
This paper shows that racial composition shocks during the Great
Migration (1940–1970) reduced the gains from growing up in the northern
United States for Black families and can explain 27% of the region’s
racial upward mobility gap today. I identify northern Black share increases
by interacting pre-1940 Black migrants’ location choices with
predicted southern county out-migration. Locational changes, not negative
selection of families, explain lower upward mobility, with persistent
segregation and increased crime and policing as plausible mechanisms.
The case of the Great Migration provides a more nuanced view of moving
to opportunity when destination reactions are taken into account.
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