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July 20, 2004

The New South: Desegregation or Air Conditioning

I just came from a good lunch with Profs. Epling and Gupta. An interesting question came up. The South progressed remarkably economically and intellectually 1950-2000, integrating with the rest of the US more than it ever had. Was this due to the end of segregation? Or was it due to air conditioning? Both are plausible theories.

How would we test this? One way might be to regress per capita incomes on a time trend, percentage of houses with air conditioners, and voter turnout among blacks, using county level data, if it is available. I wonder if it's been done.

Posted by erasmuse at July 20, 2004 01:35 PM

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Great idea for a study! It is a very good idea for an undergrad to work on ideas that if properly done would be publishable-- even if the undergrad doesn't have the time and training to do it properly. Find a grad student to help you if necessary.

James Heckman of Chicago had, I think, a study of cotton mills trying to discover the effect of segregation laws. That would be relevant to an air conditioning study too-- both variables would have to be looked at together.

I am skeptical about roads mattering much-- and this is endogenous. Why didnt' the South have good roads before 1950? Perhaps because the ruling whites didn't want to make it easier for blacks to get out or outsiders to come in. Anothe good question to study, actually, along with why the South was hostile to education until very recentl-- even education for whites.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen at July 25, 2004 05:15 PM

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