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

43 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2012

See all articles by Richard Hornbeck

Richard Hornbeck

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University

Date Written: August 2012

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Hornbeck, Richard and Naidu, Suresh, When the Levee Breaks: Black Migration and Economic Development in the American South (August 2012). NBER Working Paper No. w18296. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2131608

Richard Hornbeck (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 South Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Suresh Naidu

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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