NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 6, 2005

Cities struck by race riots during the 1960s have suffered a number of long-term economic consequences: lower male employment, reduced black family income and a fall in property values, says the New York Times.

Between 1964 and 1971 there were more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. After more than 15,000 incidents of arson, many black urban neighborhoods were in ruins.

Compared to similar cities that had little or no rioting, economists from Vanderbilt University found that cities with major riots had depressed economic indicators:

  • The median black income dropped by about 9 percent from 1960 to 1970.
  • From 1960 to 1980, male employment dropped 4 to 7 percentage points.

The impact on property values is even more striking:

  • In cities with severe riots, researchers found, the median value of black-owned homes dropped 14 percent to 20 percent, compared with cities that experienced little or no rioting, from 1960 to 1970.
  • The median value of all central-city homes, regardless of owner, dropped 6 percent, to 10 percent.

The racial difference is not surprising, because both riot damage and the perceived risk of future riots were concentrated in predominately black neighborhoods.

Again, these numbers reflect not just immediate property damage but long-term declines. If it is more expensive or less desirable to live or work in a particular neighborhood, property prices will drop, note the economists.

Source: Virginia Postrel, "The Consequences of the 1960's Race Riots Come Into View," New York Times, December 30, 2004; and William J. Collins and Robert A. Margo, "The Economic Aftermath Of The 1960s Riots: Evidence From Property Values," Working Paper 10493, National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2004.

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