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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Old South, Meet New South

In Defying the Odds, we discuss economic and social trends underlying partisan shifts.

Reid Wilson, Justin Redman, and Sumner Park write at The Hill that the New South (Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas) is becoming more Democratic as a result of economic change.
Collectively, the four New South states produce almost two-thirds of the nation's tobacco crop. But since peaking at 1.9 billion pounds in 1978, the amount of tobacco the nation produces, and the number of farms producing it, have plummeted.

Forty years ago, there were more than 60,000 tobacco farms in the New South, which produced 1.2 billion pounds of crops. In 2012, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, there were just 2,478 tobacco farms in those four states, producing 492 million pounds.

The decline is even more pronounced in the textile industry: Nationally, employment in textile mills has fallen from about half a million in 1990 to just 109,000 workers today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Almost 60 percent of the textile jobs in America are located in the four New South states — but the number of jobs in those states has fallen by almost half just since 2005, according to the Census Bureau.

As a consequence, rural counties in the New South are shrinking. Forty-one percent of North Carolina towns lost population between 2010 and 2016, according to the UNC Carolina Population Center.