Time on the ladder: Career mobility in agriculture, 1890-1938

Lee J. Alston*, Joseph P. Ferrie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We explore the dynamics of the agricultural ladder for black farmers in the U.S. South using individual-level data from a retrospective survey conducted in 1938 in Jefferson County, Arkansas. We develop and test hypotheses to explain the time spent as a tenant, sharecropper, and wage laborer. The most striking result of our analysis is the importance of individual characteristics in career mobility. In all periods - pre-World War I; the war years, and subsequent boom; the 1920s; and the Great Depression years - some farmers moved up the agricultural ladder quite rapidly while others remained stuck on a rung.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1058-1081
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Economic History
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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