Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

A Critique of “The Birth of a Nation: Media and Racial Hate”

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Abstract

In in the American Economic Review, Desmond Ang (2023) conducted an empirical analysis to evaluate whether screenings of the film The Birth of a Nation in a county between 1915 and 1919 was associated with an increase in the probability that a county had a lynching or race riot in months after the screening; whether a county ever had a second Ku Klux Klan chapter by 1930; and whether a county was home to a number of hate groups and was the site of hate crimes in the first two decades of the 21st century. In this article I evaluate the validity of Ang’s claims regarding these three dependent variables, by reviewing the historical scholarship documenting the causes of the rise and fall of second Ku Klux Klan and by evaluating the validity of Ang’s empirical evidence. Based on my investigation, I conclude that the extant historical analysis had already provided strong evidence of the causes of the rapid rise (1919–1924) and rapid fall (1925–1927) of the second Ku Klux Klan. I also conclude that Ang’s (2023) empirical analysis is ill-conceived and poorly executed, and leads to misleading claims.