During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the large number of Americans migrating between states drew the attention of the House. To study this phenomenon, the House formed the Select Committee to Investigate the Migration of Destitute Citizens in April 1940. The select committee used this map of regionalized types of farming, created by the Department of Agriculture to better understand the relationship between agriculture and interstate migration, and eventually archived it as a permanent House record.
Between 1940 and 1941, the select committee held field hearings across the country, ultimately compiling their findings in a final report printed on April 3, 1941. The committee’s study found that migration was spurred by “declining economic opportunities for people with more than average initiative who would not accept a permanently hopeless lot in the spot where they resided.” Such declining economic opportunities included weakening retail markets, environmental issues, and unemployment. Plummeting market prices and the environmental catastrophes that created the Dust Bowl made it increasingly difficult for many farmers to turn a profit. Unable to support themselves, Americans became refugees in their own country, leaving their homes to look for opportunities elsewhere. Migrant farm workers moved frequently, competing to harvest the next ripe crop.
Some states became overwhelmed by the influx of displaced laborers into their communities. The select committee offered recommendations they believed would “forestall, as far as possible, unnecessary migration” by providing migrants with the aid and resources they desperately needed.