Labor Markets, Regional Diversity, and Cotton Harvest Mechanization in the Post World War II United States

Social Science History, 29: 2, (Summer 2005), pp. 269-297

Posted: 30 May 2013

See all articles by Craig Heinicke

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College

Wayne A. Grove

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics

Date Written: 2005

Abstract

As hand-harvest labor disappeared from the American cotton fields after World War II, labor market dynamics differed between two key production regions, the South and the West. In the South, predominantly resident African Americans and whites harvested cotton; whereas in the West the labor market was composed of white residents, domestic Latino migrant workers, and Mexican nationals temporarily immigrating under the sponsorship of the U.S. government (braceros). We use newly reconstructed data for the two regions and estimate for the first time the regional causes of the demise of the hand-harvest labor force from 1949 to 1964. Whereas cheaper harvest mechanization substantially affected both regions, the downward trend in cotton prices and government programs to control cotton acreage played important roles in the disappearance of hand-harvested cotton in the South, but not in the West.

Keywords: cotton harvest, mechanization, braceros, paternalism

JEL Classification: N52, N82, J21, J31, J33, J42, L70, D81

Suggested Citation

Heinicke, Craig and Grove, Wayne A., Labor Markets, Regional Diversity, and Cotton Harvest Mechanization in the Post World War II United States (2005). Social Science History, 29: 2, (Summer 2005), pp. 269-297, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2271725

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College ( email )

275 Eastland Road
Economics Department
Berea, OH 44017
United States

Wayne A. Grove (Contact Author)

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics ( email )

1419 Salt Springs Road
Syraucse, NY 13214

HOME PAGE: http://webserver.lemoyne.edu/grovewa/

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