Discrimination in public accommodations

Anna Harvey, Emily A. West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite widespread belief in the efficacy of statutes prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations, including protections for the use of privately provided yet publicly available services such as transportation, hotels, and restaurants, we lack causal estimates of the impacts of these statutes on the well-being of those they are designed to protect. We leverage the US Supreme Court's 1883 strike of the public accommodations provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1875, along with variation in state-level statutes, to identify the impact of the Act's public accommodations provisions. Using a panel of repeated geo-located medical exams of US Colored Troops (USCT) and white Union Army veterans, and a series of difference-in-differences, geographic regression discontinuity, and placebo designs, estimates consistently suggest that the Court's ruling led to meaningful weight losses for USCT veterans in states without state-level public accommodations statutes. These findings suggest that statutes prohibiting discrimination in public accommodations can have significant positive impacts on the well-being of those they are designed to protect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-613
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • American politics
  • Race
  • class and ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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