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

Author(s): Andrea Bernini, Giovanni Facchini, Cecilia Testa
Publication Date: March 2018
Keyword(s): Black Representation, Local Elections, Public Good Provision, Voting Rights Act
JEL(s): D72, J15, N92
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12774

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.