Discussion paper

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

This paper shows how the migration of millions of Southern whites in the 20th century shaped the cultural and political landscape across America. Racially and religiously conservative, Southern white migrants created new electoral possibilities for a broad-based coalition with economic conservatives. With considerable geographic scope, these migrants hastened partisan realignment and helped to catalyze and sustain a New Right movement with national influence over the long run. More than just a novel voting bloc outside the South, they transmitted conservative ideology and cultural norms to non-Southern populations. Southern white migrants expanded the scope for such transmission by building evangelical churches and by helping to diffuse right-wing media. Residential integration and intermarriage also facilitated spillover effects. Using a mover-based strategy, we show that exposure to Southern white neighbors increased adoption of conservative religious norms. Overall, our findings suggest that this mass migration may have blurred the North-South cultural divide and reshaped the geography of conservatism in the U.S.


Bazzi, S, A Ferrara, M Fiszbein, T Pearson and P Testa (2022), ‘DP16739 The Other Great Migration: Southern Whites and the New Right‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16739. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16739