– The Spotlight series highlights the research of female economists, one at a time.-

One of my daydreams is to write an awesome economic history paper. We’ll see when that comes true, but meanwhile, let me tell you about Leah Boustan. Leah is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Economics at UCLA. Her interests span economic history, labor economics, and urban economics. Her research focuses on the Great Black Migration from the American South during and after WW II and the mass migration from Europe to the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In her 2010 QJE paper, Leah analyzes post-WW II suburbanization and “white flight” in the United States. “The distinctive American pattern—in which blacks live in cities and whites in suburbs—was enhanced by a large black migration from the rural South” during World War II and the subsequent decades. “Between 1940 and 1970, four million black migrants left the South, increasing the black population share in northern and western cities from 4% in 1940 to 16% in 1970. Over the same period, the median nonsouthern city lost 10% of its white population.” Leah shows that “white departures from central cities were, in part, a response to black in-migration. In every decade, cities that received a larger flow of black migrants also lost a larger number of white residents.” She estimates that each black arrival led to 2.7 white departures and “rules out an indirect effect on housing prices as a sole cause.” Reminds me of the contrasting experience of modern San Francisco.

Leah is also a Research Associate of the NBER, a Research Associate of the California Center for Population Research, and an External Research Fellow of the Center for Research and Analysis of Migration, University College London. She is currently on the editorial boards of the American Economic Review, Explorations in Economic History, Historical Methods, Journal of the European Economic Association, and the Journal of Urban Economics. She received her Ph.D. from Harvard University and A.B. from Princeton University.

For more interesting papers and some cool black and white photographs from the past check out Leah’s website.



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