Vanguard: Black Veterans and Civil Rights After World War I
with Desmond Ang
revise and resubmit, Quarterly Journal of Economics
Nearly 400,000 Black men were drafted into the National Army during World War I, where they toiled in segregated units and received little formal training. Leveraging novel variation from the WWI draft lottery and millions of digitized military and NAACP records, we document the pioneering role these men would play in the early civil rights movement. Relative to observably similar individuals from the same draft board, Black men randomly inducted into the Army were significantly more likely to join the nascent NAACP and to become prominent community leaders in the New Negro era. We find little evidence that these effects are explained by migration or improved socioeconomic status. Rather, corroborating historical accounts about the catalyzing influence of institutional racism in the military, we show that increased civic activism was driven by soldiers who experienced the most discriminatory treatment while serving their country.
The Effect of Childhood Environment on Political Behavior: Evidence from Young U.S. Movers, 1992–2021
with Jacob Brown, Enrico Cantoni, Martin Koenen, and Vincent Pons
We ask how childhood environment shapes political behavior. We measure young voters’ participation and party affiliation in nationally comprehensive voter files and reconstruct their childhood location histories based on their parents’ addresses. We compare outcomes of individuals who moved between the same origin and destination counties but at different ages. Those who spend more time in the destination are more influenced by it: Growing up in a county where their peers are 10 percentage points more likely to become Republicans makes them 4.7 percentage points more likely to become Republican themselves upon entering the electorate. The effects are of similar magnitude for Democratic partisanship and turnout. These exposure effects are primarily driven by teenage years, and they persist but decay after the first election. They reflect both state-level factors and factors varying at a smaller scale such as peer effects.
Zero-Sum Thinking and the Roots of U.S. Political Divides
with Nathan Nunn, Sandra Sequeira, and Stefanie Stantcheva
We investigate the origins and implications of zero-sum thinking — the belief that gains for one individual or group tend to come at the cost of others. Using a new survey of a representative sample of 20,400 US residents, we measure zero-sum thinking, political preferences, policy views, and a rich array of ancestral information spanning four generations. We find that a more zero-sum mindset is strongly associated with more support for government redistribution, race- and gender-based affirmative action, and more restrictive immigration policies. Furthermore, zero-sum thinking can be traced back to the experiences of both the individual and their ancestors, encompassing factors such as the degree of intergenerational upward mobility they experienced, whether they immigrated to the United States or lived in a location with more immigrants, and whether they were enslaved or lived in a location with more enslavement.