Race, Representation and Local Governments in the U.S. South: The Effect of the Voting Rights Act

Journal of Political Economy

with G. Facchini and C. Testa

Download (2023), Journal of Political Economy, 131(4), 994-1056 (Published Paper)

Press Release (2023), Journal of Political Economy (Press Release)

Abstract: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 redefined race relations in the United States. Yet evidence on its effect on Black office holding remains scant. Using novel data on Black elected officials between 1962 and 1980, we assess the impact of the Voting Rights Act on the racial makeup of local governments in the Deep South. Exploiting predetermined differential exposure of Southern counties to the mandated federal intervention, we show that the latter fostered local Black office holding, particularly in the powerful county commissions, controlling local public finances. In the presence of election by district, covered counties experienced Black representation gains and faster capital spending growth.

The Voice of Radio in the Battle for Equal Rights: Evidence from the U.S. South

Economics & Politics

Download (2023), Economics & Politics, 35(1), 163-226 (Published Paper)

Abstract: Although the 1960s race riots have gone down in history as America's most violent and destructive ethnic civil disturbances, a consensus on the factors able to explain their insurgence is yet to be found. Using a novel data set on the universe of radio stations airing Black-appeal programming, the effect of the media on riots is found to be sizable and statistically significant. A marginal (1%) increase in signal reception from these stations is estimated to lead to a 2.4% and 4.1% rise in the mean levels of the frequency and intensity of riots, respectively. Several mechanisms behind this result are considered, with the quantity, quality, and length of exposure to radio programming all being decisive factors.

Corruption as a Push and Pull Factor of Migration Flows: Evidence from European Countries


with L. Bossavie, D. Garrote Sanchez, and M. Makovec

Download (2024), Empirica, 51, 263-281 (Published Paper)

Abstract: Conclusive evidence on the relationship between corruption and migration has remained scant in the literature to date. Using 2008-2018 data on bilateral migration flows across EU28 and EFTA countries and four measures of corruption (three subjective and one objective), we show that corruption acts both as a push factor and as a pull factor for migration patterns. Based on a gravity model, a 1-unit increase in the corruption level in the origin country is associated with a 11% increase in out-migration. The same 1-unit increase in the destination country is associated with a 10% decline in in-migration.

Sixty Years of the Voting Rights Act: Progress and Pitfalls

Oxford Review of Economic Policy, forthcoming

with G. Facchini, M. Tabellini, and C. Testa

Download, Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series (Working Paper)

Abstract: We review the literature on the effects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), which removed formal restrictions to Black political participation. After a brief description of racial discrimination suffered by Black Americans since Reconstruction, we introduce the goals that the VRA was meant to achieve. Next, we discuss the local level impact of the law on political participation and representation, on public goods provision and policing practices, and on labor market outcomes. We then turn to whites' reactions, from political realignment to electoral counter-mobilization to changes in voting rules and arrests patterns. We conclude by discussing how the evidence reviewed in this article can inform policy-making and the design of legislation aimed at reducing racial discrimination and inequality.

The Impact of Trade on Income Inequality in Mexico

Estudios Económicos (Economic Studies), forthcoming

with Olaf J. de Groot

Download, Department of Economics Discussion Paper Series (Working Paper)

Abstract: Income inequality remains an important issue in Mexico, despite a slight decrease in its measure in recent decades. This paper examines whether changes in trade patterns following the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have affected income inequality in Mexico over the past 20 years. Through a decomposition into within- and between-sector inequality, this paper finds that the contribution of the latter has increased in an environment characterized by decreasing total income inequality. Trade explains around 14.5% of the total change in between-sector income inequality and forms the largest contribution of any of the factors identified in this paper.

Selected Working Papers

Black Empowerment and White Mobilization: The Effects of the Voting Rights Act

Journal of Political Economy, revise and resubmit

with G. Facchini, M. Tabellini, and C. Testa

Download, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 31425 (Working Paper)

Download, VoxEU CEPR (Column)

Download, VoxDev (Column)

Download, Harvard Business School Working Knowledge (Column)

Award: Best paper presented at the 48th Economic and Business History Society Conference

Abstract: The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) paved the road to Black empowerment. How did southern whites respond? Leveraging newly digitized data on county-level voter registration rates by race between 1956 and 1980, and exploiting pre-determined variation in exposure to the federal intervention, we document that the VRA increases both Black and white political participation. Consistent with the VRA triggering counter-mobilization, the surge in white registrations is concentrated where Black political empowerment is more tangible and salient due to the election of African Americans in county commissions. Additional analysis suggests that the VRA has long-lasting negative effects on whites' racial attitudes.

Labor Market Outcomes During Opposite Resource Shocks

Empirica, revise and resubmit

Abstract: The 2009 and 2012 earthquakes in Italy occurred in a close-knit region and time horizon but differed substantially on both the initial shock to the stock and the subsequent flow of resources. This paper considers the short-run impact on the dynamic response of labor market outcomes. Both natural disasters lowered employment and labor force participation by more than 0.5%. With its negative effect on the resources available, the 2009 shock led to a drop in real wages of 1.3% and a sharp - but short-lived - widening of the wage gap generated by the skill premium. The 2012 hazard, which led firms to upgrade their technology, increased wages by 2.2% and led to a more balanced - but persistent - widening of the wage gap. The predictions of a model developed in this paper are consistent with these results.