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Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migration and Racial Wage Convergence in the North, 1940–1970

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2009

Leah Platt Boustan*
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, 8283 Bunche Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095–1477. E-mail:


Four million blacks left the South from 1940 to 1970, doubling the northern black workforce. I exploit variation in migrant flows within skill groups over time to estimate the elasticity of substitution by race. I then use this estimate to calculate counterfactual rates of wage growth. I find that black wages in the North would have been around 7 percent higher in 1970 if not for the migrant influx, while white wages would have remained unchanged. On net, migration was an avenue for black economic advancement, but the migration created both winners and losers.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 2009

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