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Table A-2.--Number of counties by quintiles of percentage decrease in number of farms and

of percentage increase in level-of-living index, 1950-54

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Size of Farm and Value of Land and Buildings Are Also Related To Index

There has been increasing polarization in sizes of farms over the nation in the last several years. Between 1950 and 1954, increases in numbers of farms for the United States occurred only in the group of under 3 acres and in the groups of 260 acres and over. Average size of farm rose from 215 to 242 acres during this period. The correlation between level-of-living indexes and size of farm is usually quite low, but percentage change in average size of farm and in level-of-living indexes show positive and somewhat higher correlations.

However, the indexes are positively and highly correlated with average value of farm land and buildings. Mere size is not as important in establishing a differential on the index as the potential, represented by the value of the farm, for the production of agricultural products.

Economic Classes I and II (those with high values of products, increased in numbers between 1950 and 1954 while all lower classes decreased. Understandably, percent of farms in Economic Classes I and II is highly related to the indexes since value of products sold is one item in the index,

Degree of Mechanization is closely Related to Index

The extent to which farms are mechanized has a close relationship to the level of living attained by farm operators. The ownership of machinery, since it represents capital investment, often indicates that the farm is likely to possess electricity, telephone, and automobile. That farm is also more likely than an unmechanized farm to have a relatively high value of products and therefore more income available for family-living expenditures.

As a crude indicator of change in technology and investment in machinery, the percentage changes in numbers of farms with tractors between 1940-50 and 1950-54 have been used. In these two periods, there were increases of 103 percent and 28 percent respectively in proportions of farms reporting 1 or more tractors.

The relationship of percentage of farms with tractors to level of living does not hold so true for areas specializing in such types of farming as dairying, poultry raising, and truck-garden operations as for areas specializing in field crops. Nor does it hold so true for certain areas where there are high percentages of farms reporting tractors but where

drought or drops in the prices of specialized products restrained a rise in level of living, or actually lowered it.

For the 1940-50 period cross-tabulations were made of the rate of change in number of farms reporting tractors with the rate of change in the index of farm-operator family level of living. The results were in striking contrast to those just described for changes in farms and in average size of farms, Among the 40 percent of the counties with highest rates of increase in number of farms reporting tractors (79 percent and over), 72 percent were in the upper 40 percent according to increase in index. And among the 40 percent with the smallest increase or a slight decrease in number of tractors, only 17 percent were in the upper 40 percent with respect to gain in index. Approximate as these measures may be, their relationship supports fully the conclusion that the rise in level of living among farm people was generally most rapid in those parts of the United States in which mechanization was most rapid from 1940 to 1950.

Instead of the full cross-classification made for the 1940-50 period, a simpler crossclassification (table B) was used for 1950-54, with the change in number of farms, as formerly, used as a control. Among the 2,655 counties that had decreases in number of farms and increase in level-of - living indexes, 2, 133 had increases, 9 had no change, and 513 had decreases in number of farms reporting one or more tractors. The number of counties with both decrease in farms and increase in farms with tractors is larger in each succeeding quintile of change in index. The reverse is true of the number of counties with decreases in both number of farms and number of farms with tractors, the number being smaller as progression is made on the quintiles of change in index. Where there is an increase or no change in number of farms, the relationship is not clear-cut.

The conclusions based on the 1940-50 data appear to be substantiated by the 195054 data. The rises in indexes are most rapid in those parts of the country in which increases in mechanization are most rapid. These are in general areas in which level of living and level of mechanization were low and in which rapid advances are being made in both.

Table B.--Number of counties by type of percentage change in number of farms, in farms with

tractors, and in level-of-living index, 1950-54

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343 382 427 478 503


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34 52 19 444 31

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185 145 102 53 28


Table I shows that 1954 level-of-living indexes ranged from highs in California, New Jersey, "lowane Connecticut of 192, 190, 188, and 187, respectively, to lows of 84, 87, and 90 in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. These latter three States were the only ones which had indexes lower than the base of this index series--100 in 1945. South Carolina, the fourth-lowest State, had a 1954 index of exactly 100. Only Missouri of the States outside the South had an index lower than the national average of 140. Montana with 149, Michigan with 148 and North Dakota with 146 had indexes only slightly higher than the 1954 national average.

In general, the States which had the highest and lowest indexes in previous years were in the same relative positions in 1954. The 1940 and 1950 indexes had a correlation of .969 and correlations between these indexes and 1954 are also very high. However, some shifting in rank among States has occurred. For instance, the ranking of the four highest States was exactly inverted between 1950 and 1954.

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In most cases the State indexes averaged out wide differences in smaller areas. For instance, Sussex County, Delaware, had not only considerably higher percentages of the first three items on the index than did Kent County, but also had an average sales item more than double that of either of Delaware's other two counties. Similarly, Aroostook County raised Maine's index. Texas with its great geographical spread displayed a great range of indexes for smaller areas. Some of these were as high as the highest States' indexes, some as low as those of the lowest States; the Texas State index was 140, equal to the national average. A few States, however, displayed a comparative homogeneity in farm-family level-of-living indexes; these tended to be either high-index States like Iowa and New Jersey or low-index cates in the South.

California with 192 Had Highest Index in 1954

California, ranked fourth in 1950, owed its top position among State indexes in 1954 to an extremely high value of products sold or traded of $18, 370, although the other items were also high--96 percent of its farms had electricity, 77 percent had telephones, and 86 percent had automobiles. The index rose by 13 percent from the 170 of 1950. Iowa, which had the top index in 1950, ranked fourth in 1954. In 1954, Iowa had higher percentages than California on the first three items, with 98 percent electricity, 87 percent telephones, and 92 percent automobiles. Its average value of products was $9,537. New Jersey was ranked second in 1954 with an index of 190. The average value of products per farm was $10,697; electrification was 99 percent; 88 percent of farms had telephones, and 84 percent had automobiles. This State moved upwards from third rank in 1950, when its index was 172. Connecticut, ranked second in 1950, moved to third in 1954. Its index went from 175 to 188, a 7 percent increase. In 1954, 99 percent of the farms had electricity, 93 percent had telephones, 86 percent had automobiles, and average sales were $9,598.

The ranking of the four lowest States remained the same between 1950 and 1954. Mississippi remained the State with the lowest index in 1954, but the rise from 57 in 1950 to 84 in 1954 was 47 percent, by far the largest percentage increase, Eighty-five percent of the farms were electrified, 14 percent had telephones, 39 percent had automobiles, and average value of products was $2, 130. Alabama, whose index of 87 was second-lowest, had the lowest average value of products, $1,716; 88 percent of its farms had electricity, 16 percent had telephones, and 43 percent had automobiles. Third-lowest Arkansas, where the 1954 index was 90, showed higher percentages of electricity (91 percent) and telephones (17 percent) than the two lower States, but its percentage of farms with automobiles was only 39. Average value of sales in Arkansas was $3, 390, much higher than those for the fourth and fifth lowest States, South Carolina and Tennessee. South Carolina in 1954 had an index of 100. Its position above the three lowest States was due to its 61 percent of farms with automobiles. Eighty-eight percent of farms had electricity, 17 percent had telephones, and average sales was $2,027, an average lower than that for Arkansas or even Mississippi.

The level-of-living index for the United States as a whole was 140 in 1954 and, as has been pointed out, there were in 1954, as in earlier years, sharp differentials between the South and the other regions of the country. The indexes were 167, 161, 163, and 113 for the Northeast, North Central, West, and South, respectively. The percentage gap is considerably less between the South and other areas in 1954 than in previous years. The index for the other three regions combined was 60 percent higher than the South's index in 1950, but only 43 percent higher in 1954. The rural South is in the process of catching up with more favored parts of rural America.

The East South Central Division showed a 30-percent increase in indexes between 1950 and 1954. The South Atlantic Division had the next highest percentage increase among divisions, 24, followed by West South Central with 17 percent. Smaller percentage increases were found in New England and the East North Central Divisions where already-high indexes increased only 8 percent over 1950 in each division.

Highest percentage increases in indexes between 1950 and 1954 for the 13 Southern States with lowest indexes varied almost directly with rank of 1950 index. The 13 Southern States with lowest indexes in 1950 were the 13 States with highest percentage increases in indexes between 1950 and 1954. Mississippi, which had the lowest State index in 1950, had the highest percentage increase for this period, Oklahoma, which had the highest 1950 index for this group, had the lowest percentage increase between 1950 and 1954.

Of the four States at the top ranking on the 1950 indexes, the largest percentage increase was for fourth-ranked California, and the lowest percentage increase for topranked Iowa. However, New Hampshire and fotorado had the lowest percentage increases in State indexes, 3 percent. Iowa's index increased by 5 percent, indexes for Colorado, Wisconsin and Rhode Island by 6 percent, and indexes for Vermont and Connecticut by 7 percent. The index rose 8 percent in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nevada.


The basic indexes of farm-operator family levels of living are those for counties. Indexes for State economic areas, States, geographic divisions, and the United States are arithmetic means of the indexes of counties contained therein.

Combinations of counties were made in order to avoid excessive sampling error in computing indexes for counties with under 800 farms (see Appendix, pp. 97 to 106). Indexes are computed for these combinations. Hereinafter, these combinations will be identified with a capital letter "C" and the name of the county that is alphabetically first in the combination. For example, the combination of Banner, Cheyenne, and Kimball Counties, Nebraska will be called "C-Banner, Nebraska."

The ranges indicated in preceding sections for States have appeared quite spectacular. But when examination is made of the county indexes the tremendous variation throughout the country becomes particularly apparent. In 1954, county indexes ranged from 358 in Kern County in southern California to 44 in Lee County in eastern Kentucky.


Charts 1, 2, and 3 illustrate farm-operator family level-of-living indexes among counties for the years 1954, 1950, and 1945. These maps show generally similar patterns of variation among counties with respect to farm living. On the whole, the pattern of geographic differences in how well farmers live has not substantially altered since the end of World War II.

On the 1954 map, southern California is a solid top-quintile area, as is much of the northeastern seaboard. Noticeably more Southern counties stand out from the prevailing

bottom quintile in that area in 1954 than in 1950. And, since rises in ranking are necessarily balanced by drops, blocks of counties in the Midwest and the areas just east of the Rockies moved to a lower quintile, as did counties in northern and northeastern California.

Analyses of Index Rises in Selected Counties

Certain counties or blocks of counties were selected for a somewhat more intensive analysis of factors related to their 1954 level-of-living indexes and changes in indexes between 1950 and 1954. These counties show the action of certain trends in American agriculture.

Tunica County, Mississippi. --This county is fairly typical of the low-index counties with large percentage increases in level-of-living indexes between 1950 and 1954. Here the increase in index was 108 percent, from 38 to 79. Obviously, every item contributed to the rise in index, but the greatest part of the rise was due to electrification.

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The number of farms in the county decreased by 20 percent, while the proportion of farms reporting tractors rose 84 percent. Tenancy in this Delta county was still very high--89.9 percent, -- but there was a very slight drop from the 91.2 percent of 1950. The number of croppers showed a 22-percent decrease. The decrease in number of commercial farms, 15 percent, was somewhat less than the 20-percent decrease in all farms. The first four economic classes of farms showed increases in numbers, while there were large decreases in Classes V and VI, and in noncommercial farms. The number of farmers working off their farms dropped from 2,187 to 539.

Some of the increased prosperity of Tunica County may be due to diversification of farming. Acreage in cotton dropped from 83, 925 to 62, 979 between 1949 and 1954, while acreage in oats rose from 1,867 to 11, 256 in the same period. Corn acreage decreased from 23,609 to 13, 396 and the number of hogs and pigs was almost halved between 1950 and 1954. A trend toward cattle raising was much in evidence--the number of cattle almost doubled between 1950 and 1954.

Breathitt County, Kentucky.--Equally large percentage increases in the indexes occurred in several counties in the Southern uplands, of which Breathitt is a fairly typical example. Here also the increase was 108 percent, from 26 to 54, and here also electrification provided most of the increase.

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In this region there is a disproportionate number of noncommercial farms, and much of Breathitt County's index rise is probably due to a sharp decrease in these, from 2,210 to 1,560 or 29 percent. Total farms in the county decreased from 2,738 to 2,076, 24 percent. The average size of farm rose from 73 to 82 acres. Proportion of tenancy dropped sharply, from 27 to 19 percent. Number of farms reporting tractors rose from 10 to 52, a considerable rise for this hilly area of small, low-income farms. There was

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