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After It’s Too Late: Estimating the Policy Impacts of Black Mayors in U.S. Cities

Daniel J. Hopkins

University of Pennsylvania

Katherine T. McCabe

Harvard University

September 1, 2011

Does a black mayor’s inauguration influence American cities’ policies? The heated rhetoric surrounding some black-white elections suggests that it might. Past research is divided. Yet this question has not been addressed in years or with many observations. This paper uses novel data sets including 167 elections and 108 black mayors to examine their impact on fiscal and employment policies. Empirically, it uses multiple approaches including regression discontinuity design. In most observable policy areas, the inauguration of a black mayor leads to policies that are indistinguishable from cities where black mayors do not govern. Police hiring represents an exception, with black mayors hiring more black officers. These results suggest a disconnect between the racially polarized elections that produce black mayors and the governance that follows. They raise concerns about the potential of city elections to induce accountability, and they reinforce the centrality of criminal justice as an urban political issue.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 55

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Date posted: June 29, 2010 ; Last revised: October 10, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, Daniel J. and McCabe, Katherine T., After It’s Too Late: Estimating the Policy Impacts of Black Mayors in U.S. Cities (September 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1632390 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1632390

Contact Information

Daniel J. Hopkins (Contact Author)
University of Pennsylvania ( email )
Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.danhopkins.org
Katherine T. McCabe
Harvard University ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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