Segregation and Lynching

Trevon D. Logan, Ohio State University
Lisa Cook, Michigan State University
John M. Parman, College of William and Mary

The empirical relationship between segregation and racial violence is unknown. We use a newly developed measure of residential segregation (Logan and Parman 2014), which exploits complete census manuscript files to derive a measure of segregation based upon the racial similarity of next door neighbors. With this new measure, we distinguish between the effects of increasing racial homogeneity of a location and the tendency to segregate within a location given a particular racial composition. We find that conditional on racial composition, segregated environments were much more likely to experience lynchings and to have more lynchings. In general, a one standard deviation increase in segregation in 1880 resulted in one additional lynching in a county from 1882 to 1935. The result is robust to numerous controls and functional form assumptions. We conclude by describing how our results call for reformulating theories of lynching to focus on social interactions and interracial proximity.

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Presented in Session 11: Historical Demography