Race and the Politics of Close Elections

Tom Vogl

NBER Working Paper No. 18320
Issued in August 2012
NBER Program(s):   LS   POL

Elections between black and white candidates tend to involve close margins and high turnout. Using a novel dataset of municipal vote returns during the rise of black mayors in U.S. cities, this paper establishes new facts about turnout and competition in close interracial elections. In the South, but not the North, close black victories were more likely than close black losses, involved higher turnout than close black losses, and were more likely than close black losses to be followed by subsequent black victories. These results are consistent with a model in which the historical exclusion of Southern blacks from politics made them disproportionately sensitive to mobilization efforts by political elites, leading to a black candidate advantage in close elections. The results contribute to a growing body of evidence that the outcomes of reasonably close elections are not always random, which suggests that detailed knowledge of the electoral context is a precondition to regression discontinuity analyses based on vote shares.

download in pdf format
   (977 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (977 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18320

Published: “Race and the Politics of Close Elections.” Journal of Public Economics, January 2014, 109: 101-­‐‑113.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Steele, Murnane, and Willett w14780 Do Financial Incentives Help Low-Performing Schools Attract and Keep Academically Talented Teachers? Evidence from California
Klapper, Amit, and Guillen Entrepreneurship and Firm Formation across Countries
Wolff, Chong, and Auffhammer w16572 Classification, Detection and Consequences of Data Error: Evidence from the Human Development Index
Kaniel, Massey, and Robinson w16328 The Importance of Being an Optimist: Evidence from Labor Markets
Lim and Snyder w18355 Elections and the Quality of Public Officials: Evidence from U.S. State Courts
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us