Jhacova Williams - The Legacy of Southern Racism on Current Economic and Political Outcomes of Black Americans

Department of Economics Lecture Series on Inequality, Discrimination, and Opportunity, Monday, April 15, 2024, 5pm - 6pm, location Filene Auditorium (Moore Hall B13).

Lecture Recording (available to Dartmouth community)

Video: The Legacy of Southern Racism on Current Economic and Political Outcomes of Black Americans (lecture slides)


Can racist events in the past be linked to outcomes today? This presentation shows that racial animus, displayed by violent acts, is a quantifiable phenomenon. Specifically, we show that economic models can be used to estimate the immediate and lasting impact that racially violent acts had on the political and economic outcomes of Black individuals in the South. For instance, historically, one of the reasons that lynchings occurred was to discourage Black individuals from voting. We will discuss findings that show that in areas where the Conservative party lost a close election, lynchings of Black victims were nearly twice as likely to occur. Indicating elite influence, these losses simultaneously precipitated a rise in Black crime allegations in local Conservative-affiliated newspapers. Additionally, we discuss findings that show that Black individuals who currently reside in southern counties that experienced a relatively higher number of historical lynchings have lower voter registration rates today.


Jhacova Williams is an applied microeconomist focusing primarily on economic history and cultural economics. Her previous work has examined Southern culture and the extent to which historical events have impacted the political behavior and economic outcomes of Southern Black Americans. Recent examples include historical lynchings and the political participation of Blacks; and Confederate symbols and Black-White labor market differentials. She has also done a series of projects investigating the role of structural racism in shaping racial economic disparities in labor markets. Williams received a B.S. in mathematics from Xavier University of Louisiana, a M.S. in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Ph.D. in economics from Louisiana State University. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University and worked at Xavier University of Louisiana, Clemson University, the Economic Policy Institute, and RAND Corporation before joining the faculty at American University.