Working Paper

The Effects of Racial Segregation on Intergenerational Mobility: Evidence from Historical Railroad Placement

Abstract: This paper provides new evidence on the causal impacts of citywide racial segregation on intergenerational mobility. We use an instrumental variable approach that relies on plausibly exogenous variation in segregation due to the arrangement of railroad tracks in the 19th century. Our analysis finds that higher segregation reduces upward mobility for Black children from households across the income distribution and White children from low-income households. Moreover, segregation lowers academic achievement while increasing incarceration and teenage birth rates. An analysis of mechanisms shows that segregation reduces government spending, weakens support for antipoverty policies, and increases racially conservative attitudes among White residents.

Keywords: Race; Inequality; Intergenerational Mobility; Segregation; Discrimination;

JEL Classification: J15; J62; J71; R31;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Part of Series: Working Papers

Publication Date: 2023-09-05

Number: 23-18