Seminar Series: Competition and Discrimination in Public Accommodations
April 19 — 12:30 pm to 1:45 pm
Trevon Logan is the Hazel C. Youngberg Distinguished Professor of Economics at The Ohio State University. He is also a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Logan specializes in economic history, economic demography and applied microeconomics. His research in economic history concerns the development of living standards measures that can be used to directly asses the question of how the human condition has changed over time.
Logan’s paper Competition and Discrimination in Public Accommodations: Evidence from the Green Books seeks to determine the role of market factors in the provision of non-discriminatory services before federal legislation forbade racial discrimination in public accommodations. Using a new county-level dataset constructed from the Negro Motorist Green Books on the number of non-discriminatory public accommodations from 1939 to 1955, we show that exogenous changes in the White population led to increases in non-discriminatory firms in the post-war era. To explore the role of consumer discrimination as the mechanism behind this result, we present a model of firm discrimination where a fraction of White consumers have discriminatory preferences. The model captures the relationship between the ratio of Black-to-White consumers and the ratio of non-discriminatory to discriminatory firms in a local market. Using the number of White casualties in World War II as an instrument for the change in the Black-to-White population ratio, we isolate the effect of a change in the racial composition of consumers on the incentives for firms to racially discriminate. We find that a 1% increase in the ratio of Black-to-White consumers leads to a 2% increase in the ratio of non-discriminatory to discriminatory firms. While our results show that there were limited firm responses to market conditions, ending racial discrimination in public accommodations required federal intervention.
The La Follette School Seminar Series engages participants in discussion of a range of public policy issues and showcases the research of faculty from the La Follette School, other UW–Madison departments, and outside the UW–Madison community. Faculty, students, and visitors take part in lively dialogue about topics such as poverty and welfare, health, education, international affairs, trade and finance, and the environment. For more information, email Professor Tim Smeeding.