Kevin Lewis

June 06, 2019

Racial Segregation in Housing Markets and the Erosion of Black Wealth
Prottoy Akbar et al.
NBER Working Paper, May 2019


Housing is the most important asset for the vast majority of American households and a key driver of racial disparities in wealth. This paper studies how residential segregation by race served to erode black wealth. Using a novel sample of matched addresses from prewar American cities, we find that rental prices and occupancy soared by about 40 percent in blocks that transitioned from all white to majority black. However, home values fell on average by 10 percent over the first decade of racial transition and by a staggering 50 percent in major African American destinations such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Detroit. These findings suggest that, because of the segregated housing market, black families faced dual barriers to wealth accumulation: they paid more in rent for similar housing while the homes they were able to purchase rapidly declined in value.

Law Enforcement Leaders and the Racial Composition of Arrests
George Bulman
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


This paper introduces a novel avenue of study for understanding the mechanisms behind racial discrimination in law enforcement. I exploit a new 25‐year panel history of the race of every U.S. sheriff to shed light on the potentially important role of managers who make hiring decisions and set departmental priorities. Comparing agencies that experience racial transitions to agencies with overlapping jurisdictions reveals that the ratio of Black‐to‐White arrests is significantly higher under White sheriffs. Heterogeneity analysis indicates that the effects are driven by arrests for less‐serious offenses and by targeting Black crime types.

The Effect of Social Connectedness on Crime: Evidence from the Great Migration
Bryan Stuart & Evan Taylor
University of Chicago Working Paper, March 2019


This paper estimates the effect of social connectedness on crime across U.S. cities from 1970 to 2009. Migration networks among African Americans from the South generated variation across destinations in the concentration of migrants from the same birth town. Using this novel source of variation, we find that social connectedness considerably reduces murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, and motor vehicle thefts, with a one standard deviation increase in social connectedness reducing murders by 21 percent and motor vehicle thefts by 20 percent. Social connectedness especially reduces murders of adolescents and young adults committed during gang and drug activity.

Historical roots of implicit bias in slavery
Keith Payne, Heidi Vuletich & Jazmin Brown-Iannuzzi
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming


Implicit racial bias remains widespread, even among individuals who explicitly reject prejudice. One reason for the persistence of implicit bias may be that it is maintained through structural and historical inequalities that change slowly. We investigated the historical persistence of implicit bias by comparing modern implicit bias with the proportion of the population enslaved in those counties in 1860. Counties and states more dependent on slavery before the Civil War displayed higher levels of pro-White implicit bias today among White residents and less pro-White bias among Black residents. These associations remained significant after controlling for explicit bias. The association between slave populations and implicit bias was partially explained by measures of structural inequalities. Our results support an interpretation of implicit bias as the cognitive residue of past and present structural inequalities.

Dynamic Racial Triangulation: Examining the Racial Order using Two Experiments on Discrimination among Millennials
Michael Gaddis & Raj Ghoshal
University of California Working Paper, April 2019


Millennials are shaping up to be the most racially/ethnically diverse and most educated generation in the history of the U.S., leading many to suggest they are “post-racial.” Yet, racial inequality persists throughout society. Given these facts, what model most accurately depicts the coming racial order of the U.S.? We examine the structure of the racial order in two parts. First, we conduct a correspondence audit by sending over 4,500 emails of inquiry to “roommate wanted” advertisements and measuring response rates to uncover patterns of racial/ethnic and immigrant generational status discrimination. Next, we investigate the mechanisms behind these patterns using a survey experiment. We find consistent discrimination against African Americans, Latinas, and East Asians and some bias against South Asians. Discrimination against Asians is erased and attenuated against Latinas when our immigrant generational signal indicates “Americanization.” Furthermore, we find that while all non-Americanized racial/ethnic minority groups face some level of cultural exclusion, only African Americans also face discrimination due to negative valorization perceptions. Additional evidence suggests that Millennials are prone to social desirability bias. We suggest that rather than conform to any existing racial theory, Millennials enact an emerging racial order rooted in what we call dynamic racial triangulation.

The long-term determinants of female HIV infection in Africa: The slave trade, polygyny, and sexual behavior
Graziella Bertocchia & Arcangelo Dimico
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming


We study the long-term determinants of the high rates of female HIV prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on the transatlantic slave trade. Our hypothesis is that the latter contributed to the contemporaneous diffusion of polygyny and associated forms of social and sexual behavior that are conducive to HIV infection. We uncover that an increase in the rate of historical slave density causes a sizeable and robust increase in the rate of HIV prevalence, with a more marked effect among married women, and particularly those that do not live with their husbands. A higher slave density also induces more widespread female infidelity. These patterns are consistent with the hypothesis that higher-rank, non-cohabiting, younger co-wives are driven to infidelity by marital dissatisfaction. The resulting risky sexual behavior increases their likelihood to contract and transmit the virus, through the husbands, to their faithful co-wives, with a multiplicative effect among women.

Coming Together to Punish Others: Social Capital, Racial Context, and Social Control
Daniel Hawes
Social Science Quarterly, June 2019, Pages 1094-1111

Objectives: The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between social capital and the use of social controls in public policy. Social capital is strongly correlated with a wide range of positive societal outcomes across many policy domains. However, others have cautioned that the benefits of social capital are not uniformly distributed to all members of society and that there may even be negative effects of social capital. This article posits that communities with higher levels of social capital will be more punitive toward those who break society's “norms of reciprocity.” This tendency for social capital to reinforce social controls will be particularly strong for groups within society that are considered “others” by the dominant group. Thus, as racial and ethnic diversity increases, punitive (and targeted) social controls are likely to increase.

Methods: The analysis uses state‐level panel data from 1986-2009 to examine the effect of social capital on public policies relating to social control within criminal justice policy, and how this relationship is conditioned by minority group size.

Results: The empirical analysis finds that states with higher levels of social capital tend to have more punitive criminal justice and drug enforcement policies and outcomes but only when there is a significant black population.

Guilt by Association: White Collective Guilt in American Politics
Jennifer Chudy, Spencer Piston & Joshua Shipper
Journal of Politics, forthcoming


Decades of research have illuminated the pernicious effects of white racial prejudice on American politics. However, by focusing on prejudice, scholars have neglected other racial attitudes that might be relevant to whites’ political preferences. Our project addresses this omission by exploring how American politics is affected by white collective guilt - defined as remorse that a white person experiences due to her group’s actions toward black people. We expect collective guilt to motivate white support for both policies perceived to benefit African Americans and black politicians; we also theorize conditions under which collective guilt is uniquely activated. We examine these expectations using original data from five national surveys, including two embedded experiments. The results reveal that collective guilt has considerable explanatory power, even after taking standard measures of racial attitudes into account. We conclude that collective guilt is an independent racial attitude with significant consequences for white opinion.

Physician Bias and Racial Disparities in Health: Evidence from Veterans' Pensions
Shari Eli, Trevon Logan & Boriana Miloucheva
NBER Working Paper, May 2019


We estimate racial differences in longevity using records from cohorts of Union Army veterans. Since veterans received pensions based on proof of disability at medical exams, estimates of the causal effect of income on mortality may be biased, as sicker veterans received larger pensions. To circumvent endogeneity bias, we propose an exogenous source of variation in pension income: the judgment of the doctors who certified disability. We find that doctors appeared to discriminate against black veterans. The discrimination we observe is acute - we would not observe any racial mortality differences had physicians not been racially biased in determining pension awards. The effect of income on health was indeed large enough to close the black-white mortality gap in the period. Our work emphasizes that the large effects of physicians’ attitudes on racial differentials in health, which persist today amongst both veterans and the civilian population, were equally prominent in the past.

to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.