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Votes For Women: An Economic Perspective on Women's Enfranchisement

Carolyn Moehling, Melissa A. Thomasson

NBER Working Paper No. 26781
Issued in February 2020
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

The ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 officially granted voting rights to women across the United States. However, many states extended full or partial suffrage to women before the federal amendment. In this paper, we discuss the history of women's enfranchisement using an economic lens. We examine the demand-side, discussing the rise of the women's movement and its alliances with other social movements, and describe how suffragists put pressure on legislators. On the supply side, we draw from theoretical models of suffrage extension to explain why men shared the right to vote with women. Finally, we review empirical studies that attempt to distinguish between competing explanations. We find that no single theory can explain women's suffrage in the US, and note that while the Nineteenth Amendment extended the franchise to women, state-level barriers to voting limited the ability of black women to exercise that right until the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26781

Published: Carolyn M. Moehling & Melissa A. Thomasson, 2020. "Votes for Women: An Economic Perspective on Women’s Enfranchisement," Journal of Economic Perspectives, vol 34(2), pages 3-23.

 
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