The Impact of Forced Migration on Modern Cities: Evidence from 1930s Crop Failures

95 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2016 Last revised: 27 Nov 2016

See all articles by Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Christopher J. Malloy

Harvard Business School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Quoc Nguyen

DePaul University

Date Written: November 18, 2016

Abstract

We show that a surprisingly large portion of current city-level variation in unionization was set in place by exogenous events during the 1930s. Further, this exogenous unionization has real impacts on city-level economic outcomes through the present day. We first show that a primary factor behind city-level differences in unionization rates (within the same industry and occupation) is random - a result of substantially different rainfall levels during the Dust Bowl. We find that individuals in drought-ridden areas were significantly more likely to migrate to nearby cities. Workers in these cities - facing an influx of rural migrants - then became far more inclined to unionize than those facing less competition for their jobs. Using rainfall in surrounding counties to generate exogenous variation in city migration inflows, we show that random differences in 1930’s drought conditions predict migration patterns, and variation in union formation rates that persist over 80 years later. These unionization shocks in turn predict modern-day city-level economic outcomes such as education levels, establishment growth, salary growth, and the presence of high-value industries. Moreover, the impacts are seen solely in those industries impacted by less-skilled farmer migration, and are absent in higher-skilled industries (e.g., medical fields) and fields that did not exist in the 1930s (e.g., telecommunications).

Keywords: Migration, Unions, Dust Bowl, Urban Development

JEL Classification: J51, J53, J61, J63, M54, N32, N92, R12

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Lauren and Malloy, Christopher J. and Nguyen, Quoc, The Impact of Forced Migration on Modern Cities: Evidence from 1930s Crop Failures (November 18, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2767564 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2767564

Lauren Cohen (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Rock Center 321
Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.people.hbs.edu/lcohen

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Christopher J. Malloy

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Baker Library 277
Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-4383 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Quoc Nguyen

DePaul University ( email )

1 East Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

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