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Working Papers, No. 2024-06, March 2024 Crossref
Schooling and Political Activism in the Early Civil Rights Era

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.

Working papers are not edited, and all opinions and errors are the responsibility of the author(s). The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.

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