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Ananat and Washington on Segregation and Black Political Efficacy

Abstract: The impact of segregation on Black political efficacy is theoretically ambiguous. On one hand, increased contact among Blacks in more segregated areas may mean that Blacks are better able to coordinate political behavior. On the other hand, lesser contact with non-Blacks may mean that Blacks have less political influence over voters of other races. We investigate this question empirically. We find that exogenous increases in segregation lead to decreases in Black civic efficacy, as measured by an ability to elect Representatives who vote liberally and more specifically in favor of legislation that isfavored by Blacks. This tendency for Representatives from more segregated MSAs to vote more conservatively arises in spite of the fact that Blacks in more segregated areas hold more liberal political views than do Blacks in less segregated locales. We find evidence that this decrease in efficacy is driven by greater divergence between Black and non-Black political views in the most segregated areas. Because Blacks are a minority in every MSA, increased divergence by race implies that the mean Black voter viewpoint is farther away from the mean voter viewpoint. We offer suggestive evidence that this increased divergence is due to both lower “contact” and to selection of more conservative non-Blacks into more segregated MSAs. Thus, reduced Black political efficacy may be one reason that Blacks in exogenously more segregated areas experience worse economic outcomes.

Elizabeth Oltmans Ananat and Ebonya Washington (2007), “Segregation and Black Political Efficacy,” unpublished paper. Available here.

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