Race course

Kevin Lewis

December 13, 2018

Why are African American Governors and U.S. Senators so Rare? Exploring White Voters’ Responses to African American Statewide Candidates
Matthew Tokeshi
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Despite making notable gains at the local level, very few African Americans have been elected to the high-profile statewide offices of governor or U.S. senator. Previous research offers little systematic evidence on the role of racial prejudice in the campaigns of African Americans trying to reach these offices for the first time. In this paper, I introduce a new data set designed to test whether African American candidates for these offices are penalized due to their race. Comparing all 24 African American challengers (non-incumbents) from 2000 to 2014 to white challengers from the same party running in the same state for the same office around the same time, I find that white challengers are about three times more likely to win and receive about 13 percentage points more support among white voters. These estimates hold when controlling for a number of potential confounding factors and when employing several statistical matching estimators. The results conflict with earlier studies that focus on a single gubernatorial contest or elections at the U.S. House level.

Minority Representation in Local Government
Brian Beach et al.
NBER Working Paper, October 2018


Does minority representation in a legislative body differentially impact outcomes for minorities? To examine this question, we assemble a novel dataset identifying the ethnicity of over 3,500 California city council candidates and study close elections between white and nonwhite candidates. We find that narrowly elected nonwhite candidates generate differential gains in housing prices in majority nonwhite neighborhoods. This result, which is not explained by correlations between candidate race and political affiliation or neighborhood racial composition and income, suggests that increased representation may help reduce racial disparities. Consistent with a causal interpretation, results strengthen with increased city-level segregation and council-member pivotality. Observed changes in business patterns and policing underpin our results.

Racial proximity and campaign contributing
James Gimpel & James Glenn
Electoral Studies, February 2019, Pages 79-89


A distinguished tradition of social science research has shown higher levels of U.S. Southern political participation in areas of black-white residential proximity, attributing this activism to the political threat perceived by white voters from having African Americans concentrated close-by. Here we examine whether elevated participation in the form of campaign contributions is also visible in areas of mixed settlement, and which party, if any, this activism has come to favor. The findings from contribution data show that the South remains a distinctive political region. Southern locations of joint black-white settlement are productive of intensified donor mobilization favoring Republican candidates. Republicans not only raise more money in these places, but also receive numerically more contributions than they do in Non-Southern locations that are otherwise similar. These differences remain even after introducing statistical controls for affluence, the aged population, the number of potential contributors, and the competitiveness of local campaigns.

Does Hate Drive Out Hate? (Non-)Violence, Representation in Congress, and the US Civil Rights Movement
Gábor Nyéki
Duke University Working Paper, October 2018


Are peaceful or violent protests more effective at achieving policy change? I study the effect of protests during the Civil Rights Era on legislator votes in the US House. Using a fixed-effects specification, my identifying variation is changes within the congressional district over time. I find that peaceful protests made legislators vote more liberally, consistent with the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. By contrast, violent protests backfired and made legislators vote more conservatively. The effect of peaceful protests was limited to civil rights-related votes. The effect of violent protests extended to welfare-related votes. I explore alternative explanations for these results and show that the results are robust to them. Congressional districts where incumbents were replaced responded more strongly. Furthermore, congressional districts with a larger population share of whites responded more strongly. This is consistent with a signaling model of protests where protests transmitted new information to white voters but not to black voters.

The Racial Implications of Voter Identification Laws in America
Matt Barreto et al.
American Politics Research, forthcoming


Over 40 states have considered voter identification laws in recent years, with several adopting laws requiring voters to show a valid ID before they cast a ballot. We argue that such laws have a disenfranchising affect on racial and ethnic minorities, who are less likely than Whites to possess a valid ID. Leveraging a unique national dataset, we offer a comprehensive portrait of who does and does not have access to a valid piece of voter identification. We find clear evidence that people of color are less likely to have an ID. Moreover, these disparities persist after controlling for a host of relevant covariates.

Racial Animus Is Decreasing Support for the Voting Rights of Citizens with Felony Convictions
Victoria Shineman
University of Pittsburgh Working Paper, October 2018


Felon disenfranchisement laws disproportionately affect poor and minority populations. Using data from an original module in the 2013 Congressional Cooperative Election Study, this study demonstrates that negative racial attitudes are decreasing support for the voting rights of citizens with felony convictions. The results find that Non-Hispanic Whites with greater racial animus are less supportive of allowing citizens with felony convictions to vote, despite the ostensibly race-neutral nature of the policy. The effects of racial attitudes on public opinion are strongest when the citizen was convicted of stereotypical Black crimes, compared to stereotypical White crimes. Racial animus also make individuals less likely to be persuaded by arguments in favor of voting rights, and more susceptible to arguments against voting rights – particularly when the arguments are more directly linked to race. The magnitude of the impact of racial attitudes on support for voting rights is notable inasmuch as it is often the most important antecedent variable in the model.

A Different Kind of Disadvantage: Candidate Race, Cognitive Complexity, and Voter Choice
Melody Crowder-Meyer et al.
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Voters use heuristics to help them make decisions when they lack information about political choices. Candidate appearance operates as a powerful low-information cue. However, widely held stereotypes mean that reliance on such a heuristic can reduce support for candidates of color. We argue that racial prejudices are more likely to dominate decision making when electoral environments require voters to expend more cognitive resources — such as when they must choose multiple candidates at once. Using two experiments we find that black candidates receive less support from cognitively taxed voters than from voters who have the cognitive space to intentionally limit their prejudices when voting. We also reveal that this pattern is particularly evident among ideologically liberal voters. Respondents who profess politically liberal views support black candidates more often than white candidates when the cognitive task is simple but are less likely to do so when they are cognitively taxed.

Ignorance of History and Perceptions of Racism: Another Look at the Marley Hypothesis
Jason Strickhouser, Ethan Zell & Kara Harris
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming


Why do White Americans perceive less racism than Black Americans? Two provocative studies on the Marley hypothesis suggest that White Americans are more ignorant of historical instances of racism than Black Americans and that ignorance of history mediates racial differences in perceptions of racism. We conducted two replications of the Marley hypothesis in a different institutional and regional context than prior studies. In contrast with prior findings, the difference between White and Black Americans knowledge of historical racism was not significant in either of our replications and was dramatically smaller than that obtained in prior studies. Thus, the present research failed to replicate the mediation effect found in prior studies. We discuss potential explanations for these discrepant findings (e.g., differences in institution and region) and call for additional research examining whether the Marley hypothesis is moderated by cultural contexts.

Freedom and Convict Leasing in the Postbellum South
Christopher Muller
American Journal of Sociology, September 2018, Pages 367-405


In 1868, the state of Georgia began punishing convicts by leasing them to private companies. Georgia’s transition from penitentiary confinement to convict leasing coincided with a shift in the composition of its inmates. Fifteen years after the Civil War, African-Americans in Georgia were imprisoned at a rate more than 12 times that of whites. This article finds that black men were most likely to be imprisoned in the convict lease system where they overcame whites’ efforts to preserve their position as dependent agricultural laborers. Where elite white landowners were able to reconstitute a dependent agricultural labor force, they had little reason to use the convict lease system to punish their workers. But in urban counties and in counties where African-Americans had acquired considerable landholdings, black men faced comparatively high rates of imprisonment for property crimes.

Are the Benefits of Economic Resources for Socioemotional Functioning Shared across Racial/Ethnic Groups?
Rebekah Levine Coley, Bryn Spielvogel & Jacqueline Sims
Journal of Youth and Adolescence, December 2018, Pages 2503–2520


Growth in economic disparities, economic segregation, and racial/ethnic diversity have occurred in tandem in the U.S., leading to essential questions concerning whether the benefits of economic resources are shared across diverse groups. Analyzing a sample of eighth grade early adolescents (age 14 years) drawn from the nationally representative Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998–1999 (N = 7625; 59% White, 12% Black, 19% Hispanic, 7% Asian, 2% Native American, and 2% multiracial; 47% female), lagged regression models assessed links between family, neighborhood, and school income and adolescent emotional and behavioral functioning. The results found that family income was associated with heightened emotional and behavioral functioning, and school income with improved behavioral functioning for White adolescents, whereas no benefits emerged for Black or Hispanic youth. In contrast, mixed associations emerged between income and early adolescent functioning for Asian and American Indian youth, with predominantly negative links appearing for multiracial youth. These patterns highlight diversity in the potential benefits and costs of economic resources, and suggest the need to better specify mechanisms through which economic disparities affect youth from varied backgrounds.

Racial Differences in Weathering and its Associations with Psychosocial Stress: The CARDIA Study
Sarah Forrester et al.
SSM - Population Health, forthcoming


Biological age (BA) is a construct that captures accelerated biological aging attributable to “wear and tear” from various exposures; we measured BA and weathering, defined as the difference between BA and chronological age, and their associations with race and psychosocial factors in a middle-aged bi-racial cohort. We used data from the Coronary Artery Risk in Young Adults study (CARDIA), conducted in 4 U.S. cities from 1985–2016 to examine weathering for adults aged 48–60 years. We estimated BA via the Klemera and Doubal method using selected biomarkers. We assessed overall and race-specific associations between weathering and psychosocial measures. For the 2,694 participants included, Blacks had a BA (SD) that was 2.6 (11.8) years older than their chronological age while the average BA among Whites was 3.5 (10.0) years younger than their chronological age (Blacks weathered 6.1 years faster than Whites). Belonging to more social groups was associated with less weathering in Blacks but not Whites, and after multivariable adjustment, lower SES and more depressive symptoms were associated with more weathering among Blacks than among Whites. We confirmed racial differences in weathering, and newly documented that similar psychosocial factors may take a greater toll on the biological health of Blacks than Whites.

Finding the Fat: The Relative Impact of Budget Fluctuations on African-American Schools
Richard Baker
Explorations in Economic History, forthcoming


On average, per pupil expenditures were much lower in schools attended by African-American children than in schools attended by whites during the period of de jure segregation. Little is known, however, about what motivated school boards to maintain this inequality or why they funded African-American schools at all. Using newly collected data on schools in early twentieth-century Georgia and exploiting a funding shock resulting from the rules regarding appropriations from the State School Fund, this paper examines how school boards divvied up the proceeds of exogenous shifts in school budgets by race. In response to a one dollar per pupil budget cut, instructional expenditures in white schools fell by $1.21 per pupil, while they remained almost unchanged in African-American schools. Thus, whites, rather than African Americans, bore the brunt of budget cuts, indicating that there was little fat to trim from the budgets of African-American schools.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


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.