Competition in the Promised Land: Black Migration and Northern Labor Markets, 1940-1970


  • Leah Boustan


Black migration from the South represented a large increase in labor supply above the Mason Dixon line during and after World War II. The skill profile of new arrivals overlapped with that of the existing black workforce. Following Borjas (2003), I use variation in migrant supply shocks across skill groups – defined by educational attainment and work experience – over time to identify the impact of southern migration on northern black and white workers. A five percent increase in the labor force due to southern black migration (the mean across skill groups) would have reduced the earnings of black workers relative to whites by 3-5 percent. The differential effect by race is consistent with patterns of racial segregation by occupation and seniority level. If not for the southern influx, the North would have likely experienced faster convergence in black-white earnings.


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