Racial Disparities in Voting Wait Times: Evidence from Smartphone Data

65 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2019

See all articles by M. Keith Chen

M. Keith Chen

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Kareem Haggag

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Ryne Rohla

Washington State University

Date Written: November 2019

Abstract

Equal access to voting is a core feature of democratic government. Using data from millions of smartphone users, we quantify a racial disparity in voting wait times across a nationwide sample of polling places during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Relative to entirely-white neighborhoods, residents of entirely-black neighborhoods waited 29% longer to vote and were 74% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place. This disparity holds when comparing predominantly white and black polling places within the same states and counties, and survives numerous robustness and placebo tests. We shed light on the mechanism for these results and discuss how geospatial data can be an effective tool to both measure and monitor these disparities going forward.

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Suggested Citation

Chen, Keith and Haggag, Kareem and Pope, Devin G. and Rohla, Ryne, Racial Disparities in Voting Wait Times: Evidence from Smartphone Data (November 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w26487. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3492890

Keith Chen (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/keith.chen/index.html

Kareem Haggag

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

Devin G. Pope

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Ryne Rohla

Washington State University ( email )

P.O. Box 646210
Hulbert Hall 101
Pullman, WA 99164-6210
United States

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