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"Rain Follows the Plow" and Dryfarming Doctrine: The Climate Information Problem and Homestead Failure in the Upper Great Plains, 1890-1925

Gary D. Libecap and Zeynep Kocabiyik Hansen
The Journal of Economic History
Vol. 62, No. 1 (Mar., 2002), pp. 86-120
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2697973
Page Count: 35
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
"Rain Follows the Plow" and Dryfarming Doctrine: The Climate Information Problem and Homestead Failure in the Upper Great Plains, 1890-1925
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Abstract

The weather-information problem faced by settlers of semi-arid regions of the Great Plains hindered their attempts to adapt their crops, techniques, and farm sizes. Episodes of homestead settlement and collapse in western Kansas in 1893-1894 and in eastern Montana in 1917-1921 are examined. A Bayesian learning model indicates how new climate information was incrementally incorporated to revise views of agricultural prospects. Primary data show homesteaders' lagged response to new drought information and illustrate drought's differential impact on small farms. Dryfarming doctrine, despite its optimistic claims, was an imperfect response to drought. Indeed, some dryfarming practices hastened homestead failure.

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