NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 8, 2004

Between 1964 and 1971, racial riots resulted in large numbers of injuries, deaths and arrests, as well as considerable property damage, concentrated in predominantly black areas. Two new papers from the National Bureau of Economic Research measure the extent of the destruction.

The property damage alone was extensive and damaging in the long-term. One of the NBER papers finds that:

  • The riots significantly depressed the median value of black-owned property between 1960 and 1970, with little or no rebound in the 1970s.
  • The authors estimate that the riots depressed the value of black-owned property 14 to 20 percent, and all central-city residential property 6 to 10 percent.

However, property damage was only part of the cost. The riots also contributed to a downward economic spiral that hurt employment opportunities and incomes. The other NBER paper finds that:

  • There was a relative decline in median black family income of approximately 9 percent in cities that experienced severe riots relative to those that did not.
  • Between 1960 and 1980, severe riot cities had relative declines in male employment rates of 4 to 7 percentage points ? largely among men under the age of 30.

Source: David R. Francis, "How the 1960s' Riots Hurt African-Americans," NBER Digest, September 2004; based upon: William Collins and Robert Margo, "The Labor Market Effects of the 1960s Riots," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper, No. 10243, May 2004; and William Collins and Robert Margo, "The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots: Evidence from Property Values," National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper, No. 10493, May 2004.

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