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