Better Opportunities or Worse? The Demise of Cotton Harvest Labor, 1949–1964

Journal of Economic History, Vol. 63, No. 3, 2003

Posted: 30 May 2013

See all articles by Wayne A. Grove

Wayne A. Grove

Le Moyne College - Department of Economics

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College

Date Written: September 2003

Abstract

Following World War II millions of cotton workers, especially African-Americans, left the fields forever, and farmers mechanized the cotton harvest. Prevailing empirical studies argue that high factory wages lured farmhands away. Based on newly reconstructed data, we estimate the causes of the demise of harvest employment in 12 major cotton-producing states from 1949-1964 and find important roles for mechanization, government farm programs, higher nonagricultural wages, and falling cotton prices. On net, our estimates indicate that factors affecting farm labor demand, not labor-supply influences, caused the disappearance of hand-picked cotton - results that reverse the best econometric work to date.

Keywords: cotton harvest; mechanization; push vs. pull hypothesis

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

Suggested Citation

Grove, Wayne A. and Heinicke, Craig, Better Opportunities or Worse? The Demise of Cotton Harvest Labor, 1949–1964 (September 2003). Journal of Economic History, Vol. 63, No. 3, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2271728

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/

Craig Heinicke

Baldwin-Wallace College ( email )

275 Eastland Road
Economics Department
Berea, OH 44017
United States

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