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The Impact of the Boll Weevil, 1892–1932

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 2009

Fabian Lange*
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Economics, Yale University, P.O. Box 208264, New Haven, CT 06520–8264; and Research Fellow at IZA – Institute for the Study of Labor. E-mail: fabian.lange@yale.edu.
Alan L. Olmstead*
Affiliation:
Distinguished Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute of Governmental Affairs at the University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616–8617; and member of the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics. E-mail: alolmstead@ucdavis.edu.
Paul W. Rhode*
Affiliation:
McClelland Professor of Economics, Eller College of Management, The University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210108, Tucson, AZ 85721–0108; and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. E-mail: pwrhode@email.arizona.edu.

Abstract

The boll weevil is America's most celebrated agricultural pest. We analyze new county-level panel data to provide sharp estimates of the time path of the insect's effects on the southern economy. We find that in anticipation of the contact, farmers increased production, attempting to squeeze out one last large crop. Upon arrival, the weevil had a large negative and lasting impact on cotton production, acreage, and especially yields. In response, rather than taking land out of agricultural production, farmers shifted to other crops. We also find striking effects on land values and population movements.

Type
ARTICLES
Copyright
Copyright © The Economic History Association 2009

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