Do Black Politicians Matter?
NBER Working Paper No. 24190
This paper exploits the history of Reconstruction after the American Civil War to estimate the causal effect of politician race on public finance. I overcome the endogeneity between electoral preferences and black representation using the number of free blacks in the antebellum era (1860) as an instrument for black political leaders during Reconstruction. IV estimates show that an additional black official increased per capita county tax revenue by $0.20, more than an hour's wage at the time. The effect was not persistent, however, disappearing entirely at Reconstruction's end. Consistent with the stated policy objectives of black officials, I find positive effects of black politicians on land tenancy and show that exposure to black politicians decreased the black-white literacy gap by more than 7%. These results suggest that politician race has large effects on public finance and individual outcomes over and above electoral preferences for redistribution.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24190