What Caused the Largest Interregional Migration in American History?

The largest interregional migration in American history happened between 1910 and 1970. This movement saw millions of people moving from the rural south to the urban north and west regions of the United States. The reasons behind this massive migration were complex, but there were several main factors that contributed to it.

The Great Migration

The period between 1910 and 1970 is known as “The Great Migration.” During this time, approximately six million African Americans left the southern states and moved to northern and western cities such as Chicago, New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles.

The Push Factors

There were several push factors that drove African Americans to leave their homes in the south. Firstly, the Jim Crow laws that enforced racial segregation made life difficult for African Americans.

They faced discrimination in employment, education, housing, and voting rights. Additionally, sharecropping kept many African Americans in debt to landowners with no possibility of upward mobility.

Secondly, economic opportunities in the north were much better than those in the south. During World War I and World War II, factories in northern cities needed workers to produce weapons for the war effort. This led to a demand for laborers which attracted many people from rural areas.

The Pull Factors

The pull factors that drew African Americans to northern cities included better job opportunities with higher wages. Many factories paid better wages than sharecropping or other agricultural work in the south.

Moreover, there was a sense of hope among African Americans who migrated north that they would experience greater freedom from racial discrimination and segregation. While there was still discrimination present in northern states, it was not as overt or legally enforced as it was in southern states.

Impact on American Society

The Great Migration had a profound impact on American society at large. The influx of new residents into northern cities changed urban landscapes and demographics. It also contributed to the growth of the Civil Rights Movement as African Americans in northern cities fought for equal rights and an end to discrimination.


In conclusion, the Great Migration was caused by a combination of push and pull factors. The Jim Crow laws and sharecropping practices in southern states made life difficult for African Americans, while better job opportunities and greater freedom from segregation drew them to northern cities. This migration had a lasting impact on American society and continues to shape it today.