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Mapping the Dust Bowl Migration

by James Gregory

The press called them Dust Bowl refugees, although actually few came from the area devastated by dust storms. Instead they came from a broad area encompassing five southern plains states: Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. More than half a million left the region in the 1930s, heading for California and other western states. Below are interactive maps and charts that show various dimensions of the Dust Bowl Migration to California and the West. The first shows the number of migrants who settled in California between 1935 and 1940. Another shows county by county where the migrants settled. The maps are hosted by Tableau Public. If slow, refresh the page. . 

Move between four maps by selecting tabs below

Source: These maps are based on research first published in James N. Gregory, American Exodus: The Dustbowl Migration and Okie Culture in California. The U.S. Census data is from the Minnesota Population Center's IPUMS USA: Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 6.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2015, the following samples: 1900 1%, 1910 1%, 1920 1%, 1930 1%, 1940 1%, 1950 1%, 1960 1%, 1970 1% Metro FM1, 1980 1% Metro, 1990 1%, 2000 1%.

Maps and calculations: James Gregory.

Additional maps and charts

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African American Great Migration


Upwards of 7 million African Americans left the South during the 20th century, settling mostly in the big cities of the North and West. In doing so they transformed more than their own lives. This Great Migration transformed cities and set the foundations for reconstructions of race, politics, and even the regional balances of the nation. This section includes six interactive maps and charts.






Click to see map and charts
Big Cities and Great Migrations


Who settled in the big cities of the North and West? Three interactive maps show the answers decade by decade.









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Mapping the Southern Diaspora


Six maps and charts compare the migration patterns of all southerners: Asians, Blacks, Latinos, Natives, Whites.









State by State Migration Histories 1850-2010


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Here are charts and tables showing who moved to each state and who left each state. Using birthplace information, we track decade-by-decade the population origins of California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, New York, Hawaii, and every other state, showing countries of birth and states of birth. Secondly, we show where people from each state settled, how many stayed and how many left.







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