Women's Suffrage and Intergenerational Mobility


Does the extension of political opportunity increase economic opportunity? I study the effects on intergenerational mobility of the expansion of the franchise to women in the United States at the state and federal level from 1869 to the ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920. Observing individuals in the 1940 complete count census, I compare people growing up in states and cohorts with more or less exposure to women's suffrage exploiting state and time variation in voting rules. Measuring mobility in 1940, comparing individuals to their parent's outcomes with a linked sample to previous censuses, as well as a proxy for socio-economic background based on first names, I find that absolute mobility---the chances an individual is better off than his or her parents---increases under women's suffrage. After states granted women the vote, state governments spent more, particularly on public health and education. I test whether increased spending is a mechanism through which the extension of the franchise might change intergenerational mobility.

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