The Economics of the Ku Klux Klan

Steven Levitt’s lastest paper (co-authored by Roland Fryer) looks at the Ku Klux Klan. Here is the abstract:

The Ku Klux Klan reached its heyday in the mid-1920s, claiming millions of members. In this paper, we analyze the 1920s Klan, those who joined it, and the social and political impact that it had. We utilize a wide range of newly discovered data sources including information from Klan membership roles, applications, robe-order forms, an internal audit of the Klan by Ernst and Ernst, and a census that the Klan conducted after an internal scandal. Combining these sources with data from the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, we find that individuals who joined the Klan were better educated and more likely to hold professional jobs than the typical American. Surprisingly, we find few tangible social or political impacts of the Klan. There is little evidence that the Klan had an effect on black or foreign born residential mobility, or on lynching patterns. Historians have argued that the Klan was successful in getting candidates they favored elected. Statistical analysis, however, suggests that any direct impact of the Klan was likely to be small. Furthermore, those who were elected had little discernible effect on legislation passed. Rather than a terrorist organization, the 1920s Klan is best described as a social organization built through a wildly successful pyramid scheme fueled by an army of highly-incentivized sales agents selling hatred, religious intolerance, and fraternity in a time and place where there was tremendous demand.

2 responses to “The Economics of the Ku Klux Klan

  1. quite interesting i believe the Klan had a big impact on society after all they were the 1st true terrorist group in America after civil war 1866 then revived in 1915.
    Could you possibly tell me more about the economic impact of the group??
    doing assignment on KKK
    Thanks

  2. As i was reading this my face went from serious to smiling, it kind of sounds like you are a klan sympathiser but it has good information, i am looking for the same information as Gabrielle so it was somewhat useful, thank you

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