From the Field to the Classroom: The Boll Weevil’s Impact on Education in Rural Georgia
]Jounal of Economic History
, December 2016
I examine how production of a child labor–intensive crop (cotton) impacted schooling in the early twentieth-century American South, with a particular focus on racial differences. Because cotton production may be endogenous, the presence of an agricultural pest (the boll weevil) is employed as an instrument. Using newly collected county-level data for Georgia, I find that a 10 percent reduction in cotton production caused a 2 percent increase in the school enrollment rate of African Americans. By contrast, I find little evidence that cotton production affected the enrollment rate of whites. The shift away from cotton following the boll weevil’s arrival explains 30 percent of the narrowing of the racial differential in enrollment rates between 1914 and 1929.
Finding the Fat: The Relative Impact of Budget Fluctuations on African-American Schools
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 discontinuity 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 $1.43 per pupil, while they remained 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. This suggests that school boards were motivated to finance African-American schools by a need to maintain token compliance with “separate but equal.”
From Plutocracy to Progressivism? The Assassination of President McKinley as a Turning Point in American History
(with Carola Frydman and Eric Hilt) [pdf
We use the assassination of President McKinley in September 1901 to measure the value of his Presidency to large corporations. McKinley’s campaigns were funded by major business interests, and while in office he permitted an unprecedented wave of merger activity without much enforcement of antitrust laws. His Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, was known to be a progressive reformer. Using newly collected data, we estimate the effect of McKinley’s assassination on share prices. We distinguish among firms with varying degrees of vulnerability to antitrust prosecution, and among firms with varying degrees of political influence. Our analysis indicates that firms with vulnerability to antitrust prosecution saw greater decreases in their valuations following the assassination, suggesting that regulatory forbearance was an important mechanism by which firms benefited during McKinley’s Presidency. In contrast, we find little evidence that politically connected firms, such as those affiliated with the largest donors to the McKinley campaign, saw their values fall to a greater degree following the assassination.