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Bjoern Brey, ECARES
Forbidden love: The impact of banning interracial marriages

abstract:

The majority of US states enacted anti-miscegenation laws at varying points during the 19th and 20th century. These laws made interracial marriages “prohibited and void” which made them a cornerstone policy of segregation. Exploiting variations in introduction and coverage we study how these laws shaped family structures and reinforced differences in economic outcomes across racial groups. We combined information on state-level anti-miscegenation laws with longitudinal data from the US censuses (1850-1940). This dataset allows us to follow more than 30 million men over time. Our preliminary results suggest that the implementation of anti-miscegenation laws changed the composition of marriages and increased out-of-state migration of individuals targeted by the laws, in particular individuals in mixed marriages, but also Black men overall. Moreover, codifying race was a key necessity to enforce interracial marriage bans so that miscegenation laws included the blood purity rules. In line with this, we find that racial identity changes of initially Black individuals, a non-negligible phenomenon, declined when miscegenation laws were introduced. Further preliminary explorations suggest that this also had an impact on keeping an exploitative agricultural economic model in place and impacted human capital.

May 20, 2022 12:15 PM in Brussels

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