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Suffrage, Schooling, and Sorting in the Post-Bellum U.S. South

  • Suresh Naidu
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    This paper estimates the political and economic effects of the 19th century disenfranchisement of black citizens in the U.S. South. Using adjacent county-pairs that straddle state boundaries, I examine the effect of voting restrictions on political competition, public goods, and factor markets. I find that poll taxes and literacy tests each lowered overall electoral turnout by 8-22% and increased the Democratic vote share in elections by 1-7%. Employing newly collected data on schooling inputs, I show that disenfranchisement reduced the teacher-child ratio in black schools by 10-23%, with no significant effects on white teacher-child ratios. I develop a model of suffrage restriction and redistribution in a 2-factor economy with migration and agricultural production to generate sufficient statistics for welfare analysis of the incidence of black disenfranchisement. Consistent with the model, disenfranchised counties experienced a 3.5% increase in farm values per acre, despite a 4% fall in the black population. The estimated factor market responses suggest that black labor bore a collective loss from disenfranchisement equivalent to at least 15% of annual income, with landowners experiencing a 12% gain.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18129.

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    Date of creation: Jun 2012
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18129
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