Voting Rights Act increased racial economic equality that is now declining, UCSD study finds

Voter protections
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Research from two UC San Diego Rady School of Management studies released Tuesday indicates that while the 1965 Voting Rights Act contributed to economic improvements for black Americans, a 2013 Supreme Court ruling overriding a key provision of the law has led to the economic deprivation of that same right. group.

The first study – a working paper – found that counties with more strongly protected voting rights experienced larger reductions in the black-white wage gap between 1950 and 1980.

The second paper, published recently in the journal American Economic Association Papers and Proceedings, presented evidence that counties previously covered by the law began to see a decrease in public sector wages for black workers relative to wages for white workers. , especially for new hires, early five years after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County (Alabama) v. Holder.

In the Shelby case, the High Court declared unconstitutional Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required certain states and localities with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal “prior authorization” for any vote changes they were implementing – as well as demonstrating that any proposed changes do not have a discriminatory purpose or outcome.

The court found that Congress exceeded its authority in 2006 when it reauthorized Section 5 for another 25 years.

The Rady School research “reveals that the weakening of political power of minorities caused by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision has made the government less responsive to political demands from minorities,” said Carlos Fernando Avenancio-Leon, professor finance assistant to Rady.

“The VRA reduced economic inequality between blacks and whites in two ways,” he added. “First, it has contributed to the expansion of public employment opportunities. And, second, it has contributed to and complemented the enforcement of labor market policies such as affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws.

The two papers by Avenancio-Leon and his co-author, Abhay Aneja of UC Berkeley, focus on Section 5 of the VRA, which applies to practices or procedures in counties with a history of discrimination. racial, mainly in the south and southwest.

Chief Justice John Roberts cited the reasoning for the court’s opinion that “things have changed dramatically” in the South. Judges Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented in the 5-4 decision.

Avenancio-Leon said the research found the law was able to economically empower black families — narrowing the wage gap by a statistically significant 5.5% — because it changed politicians’ political preferences.

Their analysis of the pay gap after the key section of the law was rendered ineffective compares trends in the black/white pay gap in pairs of counties that share a border, where a county was previously covered by the provision now zero and the other was not.

The authors also found that voter turnout increased from 1968 to 1980 by 6.5 to 11.5 percent per election, with a jurisdiction’s turnout increasing by 2 percent for every 10 percent increase in its population share that was black.

As of January 14, lawmakers in at least 27 states have introduced, pre-introduced, or passed more than 250 bills containing voting-restrictive provisions, up from 75 such bills in 24 states on January 14, 2021. , according to research.

These enacted and proposed laws include restrictions on mail-in voting, restrictions on early voting, and broader authority for voter list purges.

“We hope that the evidence from our research will be informative for lawmakers,” the report’s authors said. “In an era of growing income inequality, it is worth considering the role of political powerlessness among minorities.”

City News Service contributed to this article.

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