The Long-Run Effects of School Racial Diversity on Political Identity

44 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 6 Feb 2022

See all articles by Stephen B. Billings

Stephen B. Billings

University of Colorado - Boulder

Eric Chyn

The University of Texas at Austin

Kareem Haggag

Carnegie Mellon University - Department of Social and Decision Sciences

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

How do early-life experiences shape political identity? In this paper, we study how a shock to the social lives of youth affected their party affiliation in adulthood. Specifically, we examine the end of race-based busing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools (CMS), an event that led to large changes in school racial composition. Using linked administrative data, we compare party affiliation for students who had lived on opposite sides of newly drawn school boundaries. We find that a 10-percentage point increase in the share of minorities in a student's assigned school decreased their likelihood of registering as a Republican by 8.8 percent. Consistent with the contact hypothesis, this impact is entirely driven by white students (a 12 percent decrease). This effect size is roughly 16 percent of the correlation between parents and their children's party affiliations. Finally, consistent with this change reflecting underlying partisan identity, we find no significant effect on voter registration likelihood. Together these results suggest that schools in childhood play an important role in shaping partisanship.

Suggested Citation

Billings, Stephen B. and Chyn, Eric and Haggag, Kareem, The Long-Run Effects of School Racial Diversity on Political Identity (June 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27302, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3621807

Stephen B. Billings (Contact Author)

University of Colorado - Boulder ( email )

Leeds School of Business
Koelbel Building
Boulder, CO US 80309
United States

Eric Chyn

The University of Texas at Austin ( email )

TX

Kareem Haggag

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

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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