Schooling and Political Activism in the Early Civil Rights Era

62 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2024

See all articles by Daniel Aaronson

Daniel Aaronson

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Mark Borgschulte

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics

Sunny Xun Liu

Department of Communication

Bhashkar Mazumder

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago

Date Written: February 15, 2024

Abstract

Does education lead to political engagement? The empirical literature is mixed. Theory suggests economic context matters. Individuals unable to take advantage of education in the labor market are more likely to engage in political activity. We find support for this channel during the rapid expansion of NAACP branches in the South around WWII. Branch growth was stronger where Black workers were denied returns to schooling due to Jim Crow occupational discrimination. We further show that a pre-1931 large-scale school construction program caused greater NAACP activity during the 1940s and 1950s when many former students were in their prime working years.

Keywords: education, human capital, social returns to education, NAACP, Rosenwald Schools, civil rights, civil rights movement, political participation

JEL Classification: I26, J7, N32

Suggested Citation

Aaronson, Daniel and Borgschulte, Mark and Liu, Sunny Xun and Mazumder, Bhashkar, Schooling and Political Activism in the Early Civil Rights Era (February 15, 2024). FRB of Chicago Working Paper No. 2024-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4745541 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4745541

Daniel Aaronson (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

Mark Borgschulte

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Department of Economics ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL Champaign 61820
United States

Sunny Xun Liu

Department of Communication ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Bhashkar Mazumder

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago ( email )

230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
United States

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