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The Impact of the Boll Weevil, 1892–1932

  • Fabian Lange (a1), Alan L. Olmstead (a2) and Paul W. Rhode (a3)

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.

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Ian R. Manners “The Persistent Problem of the Boll Weevil: Pest Control in Principle and in Practice.” Geographical Review 69, no. 1 (1979): 2525.

Gavin Wright . “Reflections on One Kind of Freedom and the Southern Economy.” Explorations in Economic History 38, no. 1 (2001): 4040.

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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