Long-Term Consequences of the Voting Rights Act for Black-White Disparities in Children’s Later-Life Outcomes

What are the long-term consequences of the 1965 Voting Rights Act for Black-White educational and labor market disparities?

Since key provisions of the legislation were recently struck down by the Supreme Court, effects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on the enfranchisement and well-being of racial minorities are a topic of renewed urgency. Prior research regarding the Voting Rights Act shows that the legislation improved political participation and representation among Blacks, but we know little about its long-term consequences for Black-White educational and labor market disparities. Shi and colleagues will examine whether early life exposure to the Voting Rights Act, as well as increased Black representation in local government in the 1980s, reduced long-term educational and economic inequalities between Black and White children. The study will include the children in the states and counties that were affected by the law’s protections against voting discrimination between 1965-1990, as well as children in contiguous jurisdictions as a comparison group. Using restricted-access Census and American Community Survey data, the team will employ various quantitative analyses, including cohort-based difference-in-difference models with fixed effects, to examine the effects of expanded ballot access and increased minority representation on children’s long-term educational and economic outcomes. In addition to illuminating how federal policies may reduce youth inequality, findings from this study may inform ongoing debates surrounding the future of the Voting Rights Act.

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