DP12774 | Race, Representation and Local Governments in the US South: the effect of the Voting Rights Act

Publication Date

03/06/2018

JEL Code(s)

Keyword(s)

Programme Area(s)

Abstract

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 opened elective offices to blacks in the US South, but systematic evidence on its immediate effects remains scant. Using a novel data-set on black elected officials between 1964-1980, we assess the causal impact of the VRA on the racial make-up of local governments. Since the VRA mandated federal scrutiny (coverage) over a group of Southern counties, we deploy a differences-in-differences estimation strategy using non-covered counties as a comparison group. Our results show that coverage doubled the extent to which black enfranchisement led to gains in black office-holding, particularly among bodies controlling local public finances.