Economic Impacts of Non-Resident Land Ownership Patterns in the Black Belt Region of Alabama

Authors: Amanda Espy-Brown*,
Topics: Rural Geography, Land Use, Regional Geography
Keywords: land ownership patterns, rural poverty, Black Belt
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galvez, , Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Black Belt of Alabama is a swath of seventeen counties running east to west through the central part of the state. This region belongs to a larger area known as the Southern Black Belt that stretches from Maryland to Texas. Named originally for its fertile dark soils, the Black Belt of Alabama attracted cotton plantation owners beginning in the early 1800s and ultimately became home to a majority of Alabama’s slave population. The Black Belt today is characterized by low population density, predominantly African American populations, high poverty levels, poor health outcomes, low levels of educational attainment and above national average unemployment rates. While similar historical, social, cultural and economic factors tie these counties together, notable differences exist in racial makeup, poverty rates and education levels. Although much research has been devoted to the Black Belt in recent years, few studies have focused solely on the impact of current land ownership patterns on social and economic outcomes of the counties in the region. Using county tax assessor records and ethnographic interviews, this study analyzes the impact of land ownership patterns, particularly that of non-resident land ownership, to poverty rates in Black Belt counties of Alabama with a particular focus on Greene County. Although socioeconomic outcomes in these counties are influenced by numerous historical and current factors, preliminary research suggests that land ownership patterns contribute to inhibited economic development in the Black Belt region of Alabama.

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