DP16739 The Other Great Migration: Southern Whites and the New Right

Author(s): Samuel Bazzi, Andreas Ferrara, Martin Fiszbein, Thomas Pearson, Patrick Testa
Publication Date: November 2021
Keyword(s): cultural transmission, Ideology, migration, Political Preferences, U.S. South
JEL(s): D72, J15, J18, N32, P16
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Economic History, Political Economy
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=16739

This paper provides a novel perspective on the Great Migration out of the U.S. South. Using a shift-share identification strategy, we show how millions of Southern white migrants transformed the cultural and political landscape across America. Counties with a larger Southern white share by 1940 exhibited growing support for right-wing politics throughout the 20th century and beyond. Racial animus, religious conservatism, and localist attitudes among the Southern white diaspora hastened partisan realignment as the Republican Party found fresh support for the Southern strategy outside the South. Their congressional representatives were more likely to oppose politically liberal legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and to object to the Electoral College count in 2021. These migrants helped shape institutions that reinforced racial inequity and exclusion, they shared ideology through religious organizations and popular media, and they transmitted an array of cultural norms to non-Southern populations. Together, our findings suggest that Southern white migrants may have forever changed the trajectory of American politics.