Reconsidering the Roles and Distance and Selectivity in Mass Migrations: The Case of the Twentieth-Century U.S. South

Trent Alexander, University of Minnesota

Focusing on migration within and out of the twentieth-century U.S. South, this paper seeks to problematize the well-established relationship between migration distance and migrant selectivity. Studies of mass migrations around the world have found that long-distance movers tend to be significantly more advantaged than those who move to nearby destinations. Short-distance moves are less expensive and typically required less abrupt social and cultural transitions than do longer distance moves. Nevertheless, this paper will suggest that those who moved within the twentieth-century U.S. South were a highly selective stream relative to the longer-distance migrants who left the South for other regions of the U.S. In the case of migration within and out of the mid-twentieth century South, the standard relationship between selectivity and distance breaks down.

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Presented in Session 15: Historical Demography