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1938 Economic Report on the South


Carlton, David L. & Coclanis, Peter A. (2012). 1938 Economic Report on the South.. Griffin, Larry J. & Hargis, Peggy G. (Eds.) (pp. 415-417). Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press.


One of the most controversial writings of the 1930S, the Report on Economic Conditions of the South, crystallized a long-developing body of thought about the region's persistent poverty and underdevelopment. At the same time, as a product of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, it became a flashpoint for controversy, owing less to the report itself than to FDR'S famous characterization of the South as "the Nation's NO.1 economic problem" and his attempt to use the report as a weapon in his increasingly contentious struggle with the southern conservative Democratic political establishment. Politically, the report, and the controversy it stirred, became a milestone in the increasing disaffection between the white South and the national Democratic Party. Economically, the report faithfully described a South hopelessly entangled in a mass of economic pathologies but failed to anticipate the region's postwar transformation. Beginning with the Progressive Era, southerners had been developing a tradition of critical thinking about the socioeconomic problems of the region. By the 1920S that tradition had become institutionalized with the establishment by Howard W. Odum of the Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and the creation of the University of North Carolina Press. Moreover, the problems of the region had become topics of national interest, particularly with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929. Southern poverty and underdevelopment seemed to many outside the region to be dragging the nation down with it, and such important early New Deal programs as the Tennessee Valley Authority specifically targeted the region. The Democratic takeover of Washington in 1933 brought a number of well-educated and idealistic young southerners into the federal government, many of them inclined to blame the South's problems on "economic colonialism" and eager to use federal power to right what they saw as a serious regional imbalance.

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Carlton, David L.
Coclanis, Peter A.