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Democratization, De Facto Power, and Taxation: Evidence from Military Occupation during Reconstruction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 November 2019

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How important is the enforcement of political rights in new democracies? The authors use the enfranchisement of the emancipated slaves following the American Civil War to study this question. Critical to their strategy, black suffrage was externally enforced by the United States Army in ten Southern states during Reconstruction. The authors employ a triple-difference model to estimate the joint effect of enfranchisement and its enforcement on taxation. They find that counties with greater black-population shares that were occupied by the military levied higher taxes compared to similar nonoccupied counties. These counties later experienced a comparatively greater decline in taxation after the troops were withdrawn. The authors also demonstrate that in occupied counties, black politicians were more likely to be elected and political murders by white supremacist groups occurred less frequently. The findings provide evidence on the key role of federal troops in limiting elite capture by force during this period.

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