Panel Paper: The Effect of Unconditional Cash Transfers on Intergenerational Patterns of Voter Participation

Friday, November 3, 2017
Addams (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

John B. Holbein, Duke University and Daniel Sullivan, Resources for the Future

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is widely viewed as one of the most foundational pieces of civil rights legislation—implementing strong rules that protected the basic voting rights of every citizen. However, recent judicial decisions (Shelby County v. Holder, 2013) have substantially weakened the protections that this law originally afforded. In this paper, we consider the causal impact of both the initial implementation and the subsequent removal of the protections under the VRA on voter participation. Using North Carolina data from 1948-2016 and difference-in-difference and regression discontinuity approaches, we show that the initial implementation of the VRA increased voter participation among minority citizens substantially; and its recent removal has decreased turnout in like manner. Our results suggest that the VRA’s protections had a non-trivial impact on the incorporation of a generation of minority citizens and that the law’s recent removal threatens the civic development of the next. More broadly, these patterns suggest that multi-faceted electoral reforms can have a substantial effect on who votes and who doesn’t, with broader consequences for who gets elected and the policies that they implement.