The Political Economy of Fair Housing Laws Prior to 1968
NBER Working Paper No. 10610
The confluence of the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement propelled the drive for fair-housing' legislation which attempted to curb overt discrimination in housing markets. This drive culminated in the passage of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1968. By that time, 57 percent of the U.S. population and 41 percent of the African-American population already resided in states with a fair-housing law. Despite laying the political and administrative groundwork for the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, the origins and diffusion of these state laws have not received much attention from scholars, let alone been subject to statistical efforts to disentangle multiple influences. This paper uses hazard models to analyze the diffusion of fair-housing legislation to shed new light on the combination of economic and political forces that facilitated the laws' adoption. Ceteris paribus, outside the South, states with larger union memberships, more Jewish residents, and more NAACP members passed fair-housing laws sooner than others. The estimated effects are not undermined by including controls for a variety of competing factors and are supported by historical accounts of the legislative campaigns.