In many ways, the economy of the New South was quite similar to that of the old. Sharecropping took the place of slavery in many places, and many poor whites and blacks found themselves tied to land through debt with few prospects of upward mobility. Wealth was in the hands of a select few whites, though many of the families who had been wealthy in antebellum times lost everything during the war.
On the other hand, the New South's economy was quite different from that of the old. Many of the old plantations were broken up into smaller farms, as the former planters did not see any point in keeping large farms without their slave labor. These smaller farms diversified into raising beef cattle, corn, and hay. The New South also invited railroad investment into the region, as well as iron production and a textile industry. While the region would grow slowly compared to the North, which was rapidly becoming a haven for immigrants, the economy of the postwar South was becoming industrialized, and this offered more opportunities for those willing to take them. Education also grew as an industry in the region—one of the greatest legacies of Reconstruction was funding public education. Literacy rates in the South significantly improved after the Civil War.