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
Date Revised: August 2019
Keyword(s): Enfranchisement, Identity Politics, Local Elections, Minority Rights, Public Good Provision
JEL(s): D72, H7, 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 redefined race relations in the US South. Yet, evidence on its effect on black office-holding remains scant. Using novel data on black elected officials between 1962-1980, we assess the causal impact of the VRA on the racial make-up of local governments in the Deep South. Exploiting predetermined differential exposure of US Southern counties to the VRA mandated federal intervention, we show that the latter fostered local black office-holding, particularly in the powerful county commissions, controlling local public finances. The change in the racial composition of county governments led to faster capital spending growth.