Discrimination in Public Accommodations


Identification difficulties have to date precluded the estimation of causal effects from statutes prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations. These difficulties include the failure to isolate measures of outcomes plausibly attributable to discrimination in public accommodations, the omnibus structure of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the endogeneity of state statutes to state-level covariates. We leverage the Supreme Court’s 1883 strike of the public accommodations provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1875, along with ex ante variation in state-level statutes, to identify the impact of a federal statute protecting access to public accommodations. Using repeated medical exams of Union Army and U.S. Colored Troops veterans, and a series of discontinuity and placebo designs, we find that the Court’s strike of federal public accommodations provisions led to large relative weight losses for USCT veterans in states without state-level statutes, and to corresponding relative weight gains for UA veterans.