Residential Segregation, Discrimination, and African-American Theater Entry During Jim Crow
46 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2020
Date Written: November 23, 2015
We examine the role of residential segregation and racial discrimination in determining the entry of movie theaters serving African-American customers in the 1950s. These theaters provided an alternative to the segregated theaters of the Jim Crow era. Consistent with preference externalities in racial and ethnic enclaves, we find that a greater degree of residential segregation leads to more African-American theater entry. Using estimates from a Bresnahan and Reiss model of theater entry, we find that this effect is due to higher variable profits in residentially segregated cities rather than lower fixed costs of entry. The effect of racial bias among whites is found to be complex. Using several measures of racial discrimination, we conclude that bias leading to a taste for segregation leads to greater entry, while more generally racial bias results in fewer theaters.
Keywords: residential segregation, discrimination, movie theaters, Jim Crow
JEL Classification: J15, J70, L10, L82, N82, R30
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