Landflucht Kansas dust bowl flight from rural areas into the cities

I am fundamentally contrarian.
In finance, contrarian is one of the few investment strategies that work in the long run. Vote with your feet.
Vote against the herd.
Seek deflation instead of inflation.
Buy low, sell high.
Sell expensive houses and buy cheap houses in rural areas with acres.
Unless you are too old then buy a cheap condo in Ferguson Missouri or other inner city near a great medical school.

Rural flight has been occurring to some degree in Germany since the 11th century. A corresponding principle of German law is Stadtluft macht frei (“city air makes you free”), in longer form Stadtluft macht frei nach Jahr und Tag (“city air makes you free after a year and a day”): by custom and, from 1231/32, by statute, a serf who had spent a year and a day in a city was free, and could not be reclaimed by their former master.

Landflucht (“flight from the land”) refers to the mass migration of peasants into the cities that occurred in Germany (and throughout most of Europe) in the late 19th century.
In 1870 the rural population of Germany constituted 64% of the population; by 1907 it had shrunk to 33%.

Rural flight and out-migration in Sweden can be traced in two distinct waves. The first, beginning in the 1850s when 82% of the Swedish population lived in rural areas, and continuing till the late 1880s, was mostly due to push factors in the countryside related to poverty, unemployment, low agricultural wages, debt peonage, semi-feudalism, and religious oppression by the State church. Most of the migration was ad-hoc and directed towards emigration to the three big cities of Sweden, America, Denmark, or Germany. Many of these first emigrants were unskilled, barely literate laborers who sought farm work or daily wage labour in the cities.

Serfdom is the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism. It was a condition of bondage, which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century. Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the Lord of the Manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence. Serfs were often required not only to work on the lord’s fields, but also his mines, forests and roads. The manor formed the basic unit of feudal society, and the Lord of the manor and his serfs were bound legally, economically, and socially. Serfs formed the lowest social class of feudal society.

Rural flight (or rural exodus) is the migratory pattern of peoples from rural areas into urban areas. It is urbanization seen from the rural perspective.

In modern times, it often occurs in a region following the industrialization of agriculture—when fewer people are needed to bring the same amount of agricultural output to market—and related agricultural services and industries are consolidated. Rural flight is exacerbated when the population decline leads to the loss of rural services (such as business enterprises and schools), which leads to greater loss of population as people leave to seek those features.

This phenomenon was first articulated through Ernst Georg Ravenstein’s Laws of migration in the 1880s, upon which modern theories are based.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, rural flight occurred in mostly localized regions. Pre-industrial societies did not experience large rural-urban migration flows primarily due to the inability of cities to support large populations. Lack of large employment industries, high urban mortality, and low food supplies all served as checks keeping pre-industrial cities much smaller than their modern counterparts. Ancient Athensand Rome, scholars estimate, had peak populations of 80,000 and 500,000 paling in comparison with their current populations.

The onset of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the late 19th century removed many of the checks that had previously constrained urban populations. As food supplies increased and stabilized and industrialized centers moved into place, cities began to support larger populations, sparking the beginning of rural flight on a massive scale. The United Kingdom went from having 20% of the population living in urban areas in 1800 to more than 70% by 1925.[3] While the late 19th century and early 20th century saw much of rural flight focused in Western Europe and the United States, asindustrialization spread throughout the world during the 20th century, rural flight and urbanization followed quickly behind. Today, rural flight is an especially distinctive phenomenon in some of the newer urbanized areas including China and more recently sub-Saharan Africa.

Dust bowl

The shift from mixed subsistence farming to commodity crops and livestock began in the late 19th century. New capital market systems and the railroad network began the trend towards larger farms that employed fewer people per acre. These larger farms used more efficient technologies such as steel plows, mechanical reapers, and higher-yield seed stock, which reduced human input per unit of production.[5] The other issue on the Great Plains was that people were using inappropriate farming techniques for the soil and weather conditions. Most homesteaders had family farms generally considered too small to survive (under 320 acres), and European-American subsistence farming could not continue as it was then practiced.

During the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression of the 1930s, large numbers of people fled rural areas of the Great Plains and the Midwest due to depressed commodity prices and high debt loads exacerbated by several years of drought and large dust storms. Rural flight from the Great Plains has been depicted in literature, such as John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath (1939), in which a family from the Great Plains migrates to California during the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s.

Modern rural flight

Post-World War II rural flight has been caused primarily by the spread of industrialized agriculture. Small, labor-intensive family farms have grown into, or have been replaced by, heavily mechanized and specialized industrial farms. While a small family farm typically produced a wide range of crop, garden, and animal products—all requiring substantial labor—large industrial farms typically specialize in just a few crop or livestock varieties, using large machinery and high-density livestock containment systems that require a fraction of the labor per unit produced. For example, Iowa State University reports the number of hog farmers in Iowa dropped from 65,000 in 1980 to 10,000 in 2002, while the number of hogs per farm increased from 200 to 1,400

The consolidation of the feed, seed, processed grain, and livestock industries has meant that there are fewer small businesses in rural areas. This decrease in turn exacerbated the decreased demand for labor. Rural areas that used to be able to provide employment for all young adults willing to work in challenging conditions, increasingly provide fewer opportunities for young adults. The situation is made worse by the decrease in services such as schools, business, and cultural opportunities that accompany the decline in population, and the increasing age of the remaining population further stresses the social service system of rural areas.

Abandonment of small towns

The rise of corporate agricultural structures directly affects small rural communities, resulting in decreased populations, decreased incomes for some segments, increased income inequality, decreased community participation, fewer retail outlets and less retail trade, and increased environmental pollution.

Determinants of rural flight

There are several determinants, push and pull, that contribute to rural flight: lower levels of (perceived) economic opportunity in rural communities versus urban ones, lower levels of government investment in rural communities, greater education opportunities in cities, marriages, increased social acceptance in urban areas, and higher levels of rural fertility.

Economic determinants

Some migrants choose to leave rural communities out of the desire to pursue greater economic opportunity in urban areas. Greater economic opportunities can be real or perceived. According to the Harris-Todaro Model, migration to urban areas will continue as long as “expected urban real income at the margin exceeds real agricultural product” However, sociologist Josef Gugler points out that while individual benefits of increased wages may outweigh the costs of migration, if enough individuals follow this rationale, it can produce harmful effects such as overcrowding and unemployment on a national level. This phenomenon, when the rate of urbanization outpaces the rate of economic growth, is known as overurbanization. Since the industrialization of agriculture, mechanization has reduced the number of jobs present in rural communities. Some scholars have also attributed rural flight to the effects of globalization as the demand for increased economic competitiveness leads people to choose capital over labor. At the same time, rural fertility rates have historically been higher than urban fertility rates.The combination of declining rural jobs and a persistently high rural fertility rate has led to rural-urban migration streams. Rural flight also contains a positive feedback loop where previous migrants from rural communities assist new migrants in adjusting to city life. Also known as chain migration, migrant networks lower barriers to rural flight. For example, an overwhelming majority of rural migrants in China located jobs in urban areas through migrant networks.

Some families choose to send their children to cities as a form of investment for the future. A study conducted by Bates and Bennett (1974) concluded that rural communities in Zambia that had other viable investment opportunities, like livestock for instance, had lower rates of rural-urban migration as compared to regions without viable investment opportunities. Sending their children into cities can serve as long-term investments with the hope that their children will be able to send remittances back home after getting a job in the city.

Social determinants

In other instances, rural flight may occur in response to social determinants. A study conducted in 2012 indicated that a significant proportion of rural flight in India occurred due to social factors such as migration with household, marriage, and education. Migration with households and marriage affect women in particular as most often they are the ones required to move with households and move for marriage, especially in developing regions.

Rural youth may choose to leave their rural communities as a method of transitioning into adulthood, seeking avenues to greater prosperity. With the stagnation of the rural economy and encouragement from their parents, rural youth may choose to migrate to cities out of social norms – demonstrating leadership and self-respect. With this societal encouragement combined with depressed rural economies, rural youth form a large proportion of the migrants moving to urban areas. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a study conducted by Touray in 2006 indicated that about 15% (26 million) of urban migrants were youth.

Lastly, natural disasters can often be single-point events that lead to temporarily massive rural-urban migration flows. The 1930s Dust Bowl in the United States for example led to the flight of 2.5 million people from the Plains by 1940, many to the new cities in the West. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 4 residents in the Plains States left during the 1930s. More recently, drought in Syria from 2006-2011 has prompted a rural exodus to major urban centers. Massive influxes in urban areas, combined with difficult living conditions, have prompted some scholars to link the drought to the arrival of the Arab Spring in Syria. In the United States and Canada

The terms are used in the United States and Canada to describe the flight of people from rural areas in the Great Plains and Midwest regions, and to a lesser extent rural areas of the northeast and southeast. It is also particularly noticeable in parts of Atlantic Canada (especially Newfoundland), since the collapse of Atlantic cod fishing fields in 1992.


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