Geo-Demographic Analysis of the Alabama Black Belt 1910 -2010



Prior, John W II

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This thesis determines that the Alabama Black Belt evolved differently than other regions in Alabama during the post-cotton era 1910-2010. This thesis first quantifies the extent of Alabama Black Belt during the ante-bellum era and the cotton credit system era. It then analysis the population histories of counties inside the Alabama Black Belt relative to other Alabama counties with similar economic characteristics during the Post-Cotton era 1910-2010. The analysis uses population processes of migration, natality and mortality to determine that rural Black Belt counties despite having significantly higher birth rate lost 56% of their population during the post cotton period, while the population of similar rural counties outside the Black Belt increased by 8%. Analysis of mixed and urban counties showed similar differences. The thesis then uses two measures of population distribution taken at decadal intervals to determine if the hierarchical market system within the Black Belt evolved differently than the market system in similar counties outside the Black Belt. This analysis uses a graph of the Pareto coefficient for xii rank-size distribution of settlements within each group of counties as one measure. Rural population density is a second measure. Together these two measures are proxies for employment and by extension the relative health of the regional economy. The results indicate the Black Belt counties, especially rural counties experienced centralizing markets with downgrading of market levels and a contracting economy in four of ten decades, while rural counties outside the Black Belt experienced decentralizing markets with upgrading market levels and an expanding economy in two decades. Similarly, mixed Black Belt counties experienced negative growth in two decades and strong growth in only one decade, while mixed counties outside the Black Belt experienced strong growth and upgrading markets in five decades. Comparative population analysis and measures of population distribution confirmed that the Alabama Black Belt counties evolved differently due to demographic differences, economic opportunities, and governance.



Central Place System, Geography, Alabama, Zipfs Law, Demography, Black Belt