To Leave or Not to Leave: Exploring the Benefit of Exiting the South during the Great Migration

Stewart E. Tolnay, University of Washington
Trent Alexander, University of Minnesota
Jason C. Digman, University of Minnesota
Suzanne C. Eichenlaub, University of Washington

The exodus of millions of southerners between 1910 and 1970 is largely attributed to the economic and social push factors in the south combined with pull factors in other regions. Researchers generally find that participants in the Great Migration were positively selected from their origin, in terms of educational attainment and urban status. Although a considerable amount of attention examines how these migrants fared in their destinations, to fully measure the success of migrants, a comparison to those who remained within the south is necessary. This paper compares inter-regional migrants (i.e. migrants who left the south) with their southern contemporaries they left behind. Our findings indicate that although positively selected, migrants who left the south did not benefit appreciably in terms of employment status, income, or occupational status. In fact, in many instances, inter-regional migrants fared worse than did southerners who moved within the south or who remained sedentary.

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Presented in Session 69: Migration and Urbanization Processes