Working Papers

  • The Effects of Minority Enfranchisement on Preferences for Public Goods: Evidence from the Voting Rights Act of 1965

    Previous research finds the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was instrumental in increasing Black political enfranchisement and, consequently, helping Black communities secure more desirable policy outcomes. In this paper, I analyze the broader effects minority enfranchisement on local public finances by exploiting spatial discontinuities in the application of special provisions of the VRA, generated by a coverage formula defined in Section 4 of the Act. In response to Section 4 coverage, counties with larger non-white population shares exhibited relative declines in revenues and expenditures. The findings suggest these declines were not mechanical responses to secular changes in the tax base, but were instead likely generated by changing preferences for public goods. Further exploration shows that counties responded to coverage by increasing government fragmentation, providing one potential mechanism by which communities may have kept taxes low. Responses to the VRA illustrate how local communities may respond to and potentially undermine efforts to address racial inequality.

Works in Progress