Enfranchisement and Incarceration after the 1965 Voting Rights Act

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<jats:p>The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) fundamentally changed the distribution of electoral power in the US South. We examine the consequences of this mass enfranchisement of Black people for the use of the carceral state—police, the courts, and the prison system. We study the extent to which white communities in the US South responded to the end of Jim Crow by increasing the incarceration of Black people. We test this with new historical data on state and county prison intake data by race (~1940–1985) in a series of difference-in-differences designs. We find that states covered by Section 5 of the VRA experienced a differential increase in Black prison admissions relative to those that were not covered and that incarceration varied systematically in proportion to the electoral threat posed by Black voters. Our findings indicate the potentially perverse consequences of enfranchisement when establishment power seeks—and finds—other outlets of social and political control.</jats:p>






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Eubank, N, and A Fresh (2022). Enfranchisement and Incarceration after the 1965 Voting Rights Act. American Political Science Review. pp. 1–16. 10.1017/s0003055421001337 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/24304.

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Nicholas Eubank

Assistant Research Professor of Political Science

I am an Assistant Research Professor in the Duke Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), where I study a range of topics related to political accountability, include gerrymandering, social networks, election administration and race and incarceration.


Adriane Stewart Fresh

Assistant Professor of Political Science

I am an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. I received my PhD in Political Science at Stanford in 2017, and my MA in Economics at Stanford in 2015.  Prior to arriving at Duke, I was a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. 

I study the political economy of development. My research concerns how elites respond to dramatic economic and institutional changes. I'm interested in the effects of these changes on elite persistence and the strategies that elites employ to contend with potential disruptions to their power. I study a diverse set of historical time periods and country contexts including the Industrial Revolution in Britain, regime change in Chile, and black enfranchisement in the US. I am interested in quantitative methods, and I have a particular interest in causal inference in the context of observational research, as well as natural language processing using large corpuses of historical and historiographical text.

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