, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 2249–2271 | Cite as

Second-Generation Outcomes of the Great Migration

  • J. Trent Alexander
  • Christine LeibbrandEmail author
  • Catherine Massey
  • Stewart Tolnay


The mass migration of African Americans out of the South during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century represents one of the most significant internal migration flows in U.S. history. Those undertaking the Great Migration left the South in search of a better life, and their move transformed the cultural, social, and political dynamics of African American life specifically and U.S. society more generally. Recent research offers conflicting evidence regarding the migrants’ success in translating their geographic mobility into economic mobility. Due in part to the lack of a large body of longitudinal data, almost all studies of the Great Migration have focused on the migrants themselves, usually over short periods of their working lives. Using longitudinally linked census data, we take a broader view, investigating the long-term economic and social effects of the Great Migration on the migrants’ children. Our results reveal modest but statistically significant advantages in education, income, and poverty status for the African American children of the Great Migration relative to the children of southerners who remained in the South. In contrast, second-generation white migrants experienced few benefits from migrating relative to southern or northern stayers.


Great Migration Second-generation migrants Migrant outcomes Socioeconomic outcomes 



Partial support for this research came from awards from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology (CSDE) at the University of Washington in support of its training program (T32 HD007543) and infrastructure (R24 HD042828), as well as from the CSDE Shanahan Endowment Fellowship. We would like to thank the participants in the 2016 American Sociological Association, particularly Jenna Nobles, for their valuable comments and suggestions. We are also grateful for the feedback from the five anonymous reviewers during the Demography peer review process. This research was conducted as a part of the Census Longitudinal Infrastructure Project (CLIP) while J. Trent Alexander was an employee of the U.S. Census Bureau. Any opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Trent Alexander
    • 1
  • Christine Leibbrand
    • 2
    Email author
  • Catherine Massey
    • 1
  • Stewart Tolnay
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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