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Municipal Housekeeping: The Impact of Women's Suffrage on Public Education

Celeste K. Carruthers, Marianne H. Wanamaker

NBER Working Paper No. 20864
Issued in January 2015
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Public Economics

Gains in 20th century real wages and reductions in the black-white wage gap have been linked to the mid-century ascent of school quality. With a new dataset uniquely appropriate to identifying the impact of female voter enfranchisement on education spending, we attribute up to one-third of the 1920-1940 rise in public school expenditures to the Nineteenth Amendment. Yet the continued disenfranchisement of black southerners meant white school gains far outpaced those for blacks. As a result, women’s suffrage exacerbated racial inequality in education expenditures and substantially delayed relative gains in black human capital observed later in the century.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20864

Published: C. K. Carruthers & M. H. Wanamaker, 2015. "Municipal Housekeeping: The Impact of Women's Suffrage on Public Education," Journal of Human Resources, vol 50(4), pages 837-872. citation courtesy of

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