Hand picking of cotton in the United States virtually disappeared twenty years after the first mechanical harvester was marketed in 1949. Contrary to received accounts, southern social institutions did not impede the diffusion of the mechanical cotton picker from the West to the cotton belt in the South so much as environmental factors and educational attainment did. Rising cotton yields and exogenous technological change drove diffusion by reducing the costs of machine harvesting. Labor displacement resulting from the cotton picker occurred only in a concentrated burst after 1959.

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