VRA’s Effectiveness & Impact of Judicial Nullification of Preclearance

New research exploring impact of 1965 Voting Rights Act finds it reduced income inequality between Blacks and Whites. Since Shelby County v. Holder (2013), counties previously covered by Section 5 the VRA saw a decrease in public sector wages for Black workers relative to wages for white workers. The impact appears as early as five years after the decision. By contrast, between 1950 and 1980, counties subject to pre-clearance experienced larger reductions in the Black-white wage gap.

“The VRA was able to empower Black families economically—decreasing the wage gap by a statistically significant 5.5 percentage points—because it changed the political preferences of politicians.”

“[S]ection five increased turnout from 1968 to 1980 by 6.5 to 11.5 percentage points per election, with a jurisdiction’s turnout increasing by 2% for every 10% increase in its population share that was Black.”

The authors emphasize black political participation resulting from VRA influenced the political choices made by politicians. Avenancio-León and Aneja’s papers, “The Effect of Political Power on Labor Market Inequality: Evidence from the 1965 Voting Rights Act” and “Disenfranchisement and Economic Inequality: Downstream Effects of Shelby County v. Holder” can be accessed respectively at this link and this link.

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