The Dust Bowl and American elections




Alam, M Injamam

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This paper examines the American Dust Bowl to understand the political impacts of the catastrophe which devastated the American Plains during the 1930s. I use county-level panel analysis to analyze whether the Dust Bowl led to a change in voting patterns in more eroded counties compared to less eroded counties. I look to see whether, in the years following the Dust Bowl, there was shift in vote shares against the Democratic Party who were typically the incumbents during the period of the Dust Bowl. I use presidential, congressional, senatorial and gubernatorial election return for approximately the three decades following the Dust Bowl, i.e. between 1940 and 1968. My results show that the Dust Bowl is associated with a shift away from the Democratic Party for more affected counties. I find these effects to last for at least a decade (throughout the 1940s). I also look at the potential effects of the net migration and New Deal expenditure in the Plains. I find that less net migration may have been one of the reasons behind this change in voting behavior of counties and that New Deal expenditure could potentially have been a strong mitigative tool for the Democratic Party.



Dust Bowl, Economics, Political Economy