Abstract

Between 1910 and 1970, millions of southern-born Americans migrated to the northern and western regions of the country in search of better opportunities. Some traveled only short distances, leaving Appalachia for nearby destinations in the southern Midwest. Others made the much longer trek to the West Coast. In this article, we use data from the 1920, 1940, and 1970 Public Use Microdata Samples to investigate the distances traveled by male participants in the Great Migration, with a special focus on differences by race, as well as on changes over time. We find that the average distance traveled increased substantially during the Great Migration for blacks and whites alike. However, throughout this time period, white migrants moved significantly farther than black migrants. The greater propensity for white migrants to move west, rather than north, accounts for a good deal of this overall racial variation. Although the difference in distance traveled between blacks and whites narrowed significantly over time, it remained substantial as the Great Migration came to a close. We conclude by highlighting the impact of these differential migration patterns on the composition and social conditions in northern cities.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-8034
Print ISSN
0145-5532
Pages
pp. 523-548
Launched on MUSE
2005-11-29
Open Access
No
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