The Journal of Economic History


The Political Economy of Segregation: The Case of Segregated Streetcars

Jennifer Robacka1

a1 Assistant Professor of Economics and Research Associate, Center for study of Public Choice, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.


The introduction of segregation laws for municipal streetcars is examined. The economics of private and public segregation is analyzed first, taking note of the particular features of the streetcar industry, followed by a discussion of the contemporary debates on streetcar segregation laws in a number of southern cities. The evidence presented suggests that segregation laws were binding constraints and not simply the codification of customary practice. Furthermore, the streetcar companies were not the initiators of segregation and sometimes actively resisted it. These findings are related to several major interpretations of the origins of segregation.