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.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8034
Print ISSN
0145-5532
Pages
pp. 269-297
Launched on MUSE
2005-06-06
Open Access
No
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