"Just a Short Hop Home": Migration within the South during the Southern Exodus, 1940-1980

Trent Alexander, University of Minnesota

Numerous studies of southern outmigration have argued that blacks and whites who left the region during the twentieth century were relatively advantaged compared to those who stayed home. This paper seeks to problematize this well-established dynamic by considering the experiences of a much larger group of southern migrants: those who moved within the South. Relevant migration theories and the existing studies of the Great Migration suggest that the intra-South movers should have been less advantaged than those who made the move out of the South. This paper will argue that much of the twentieth century migration within the South deviated significantly from this expected pattern. Those moving within the South were always at least as advantaged as those moving North, sometimes strikingly moreso. These findings call into question recent research on the meaning of selectivity and distance in the Great Migration and in long-distance migrations more generally.

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Presented in Session 144: Recent Patterns of Internal Migration in the U.S.