The Boll Weevil’s Impact on Racial Income Gaps in the Early Twentieth Century
Karen Clay (),
Ethan J. Schmick and
No 27101, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc
This paper investigates the eﬀect of a large negative agricultural shock, the boll weevil, on racial income gaps in the ﬁrst half of the twentieth century. We draw on complete count census data to generate a new large linked sample of Black and white fathers and their sons. Fathers are observed before and after the arrival of the boll weevil in their county, and their sons are observed in their father’s household as children and again in 1940 as adults. In race speciﬁc diﬀerence-in-diﬀerences speciﬁcations and in triple diﬀerences speciﬁcations, we ﬁnd that the boll weevil diﬀerentially aﬀected wages of Black sons born after its arrival. Relative to white sons born after the boll weevil, Black sons born after the boll weevil saw a 6%increase in their wages. The magnitude of the eﬀect is similar when the sample is constrained to sons whose father stayed in the South and to sons who stayed in the South. Evidence on changes in fertility and heights suggests that the relative gains were driven by improvements in early life conditions for Black sons born after the weevil’s arrival. The magnitude of the eﬀect of the boll weevil on the Black-white wage gap can be better understood by comparing it with changes between 1940 and 1950, a period of rapid convergence. The boll weevil caused the Black-white wage gap to fall by roughly half of the decline between 1940 and 1950 in the South or a third of the decline nationally.
JEL-codes: I24 J10 J62 N32 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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