The Regional Economic Impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Prepared for BU Law Conference: The Civil Rights Act at 50
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT was a genuine landmark, “the most important piece of legislation passed by Congress in the twentieth century,” according to one recent history. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT But did the Act have economic as well as moral and legal significance? If there were important economic gains for African-Americans during the Civil Rights era, can we attribute these with confidence to federal legislation, as opposed to ongoing progress in schooling and racial attitudes? If the Act was “an idea whose time has come” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT as Senator Dirksen suggested, then perhaps it merely ratified and facilitated a process already underway.
This article argues that the Civil Rights Act did indeed precipitate new economic advances for African Americans in income, occupational status, and educational attainment. But this statement is subject to two stipulations that are not always clearly recognized. First, these gains were only realized through a combination of grassroots mobilization, legal activism, and resolute enforcement by the executive branch and the courts—much of which extended the meaning and implications of the Act beyond what might have been understood from the explicit language of the 1964 law. Despite this element of temporal contingency, the Act still deserves prime credit for initiating historical change. Its passage broke the back of the southern filibuster and sent a powerful signal that a new era in race relations was dawning.
The second stipulation is that most of the economic gains from the Civil Rights Act occurred in the South. This geographic disparity was partly a matter of design, since the Act was written with the South primarily in mind. It also reflects the relatively low economic starting point for black southerners in 1964, and the more readily targeted explicit segregation systems that characterized workplaces in the South. But because the southern advantage for African-Americans has persisted well beyond the period of intense legal enforcement, its underlying basis is by no means as obvious as may appear at first glance.
This Article concentrates on public accommodations under Title II NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT and private employment under Title VII NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Thus it makes no claim to completeness in considering all of the potential economic consequences of the Act. The 1964 Act said nothing about housing discrimination, and its mild provisions on voter registration under Title I NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT and Title VIII NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT had little effect until amended and expanded by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT In addition, Title IV NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT empowered the Attorney General to file suits to enforce school desegregation, while Title VI NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT allowed federal agencies to withhold funding from any institution that failed to comply with the agency’s anti-discrimination requirements. These provisions were important in accelerating the pace of school desegregation in the South, especially when combined with the 1965 passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT which dramatically increased federal funding for public schools. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT But school desegregation is a distinct and complex historical topic, albeit one with significant economic content. It will be set aside here for another occasion.
I. Public Accommodations
This section considers public accommodations and Title II as economic phenomena. It may appear that this topic is more social than economic, but the economic content is significant— not only because of both in the hardships and constraints on mobility imposed on African-Americans, as well as the implications of desegregation for commercial activity, but also because of— the basis on which constitutionality was settled, using the Commerce Clause as opposed to the Fourteenth Amendment. This issue was regional virtually by definition, because nearly all non-southern states (and most cities) had public accommodation anti-discrimination laws by 1964, while no southern state came close to doing so.
Contrary to much casual commentary, gaining access to public accommodations was not a matter of abolishing de jure segregation. Because federal courts after Brown v. Board of Education NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT consistently ruled that state-enforced racial discrimination was illegal, most laws requiring segregation had been repealed by the 1960s. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Nor was it a case of farsighted business groups taking the lead in abolishing archaic racial restrictions in pursuit of their own self-interest. Business acquiescence was reluctant, coming only after heavy economic losses from years of protest, primarily in the forms of sit-ins and boycotts. Although the racial attitudes of managers undoubtedly played a role, their opposition to desegregation was fundamentally economic: the fear that accepting black customers would result in the loss of white customers. When asked in late 1959 by James Lawson and others to begin serving African Americans, Nashville department store owners Fred Harvey and John Sloan declined, saying they would lose more business than they would gain. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Business fears operated not just at the level of individual firms but often for an entire downtown area. Thus the owner of Meyer’s Department Store in Greensboro predicted that desegregation would make “a kind of ghetto out of this section of the city.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Throughout this period, the legal issues were cloudy, with both sides appealing to competing and long standing common-law traditions. Although many cases against protesters were dismissed on narrow grounds, the Supreme Court never issued a definitive ruling on the core state action question. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Title II of the Civil Rights Act was crucial in bringing resolution to this hotly contested matter. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
By the summer of 1963, merchant groups in most major metropolitan areas had made their peace with the protesters, discovering that white customer reaction was far milder than anticipated, and that desegregation actually proved to be a good business move. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Despite these successful local settlements, it soon became clear that a purely voluntary approach to the problem would not be adequate. In November 1963, a memo from Assistant Attorney General Louis Oberdorfer acknowledged, “Reports of progress in desegregation of privately owned public facilities show virtually no breakthroughs since the middle of October . . . very little change is now taking place.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Worse yet, partial desegregation often seemed only to make the situation worse. In a follow-up memo Oberdorfer noted the “curious patchwork pattern” that had emerged in which most lunch counters were integrated but not restaurants, theaters but not drive-ins, and so on. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The unevenness of outcomes generated strong feelings of inequity on the part of businesses and threatened to unravel existing agreements. Recalling the period in later years, Mayor Ivan Allen of Atlanta reported: “Everything I had tried in those areas [hotels and restaurants] had failed. There had been endless meetings with the hotel and restaurant people over the past three or four years, and no matter what agreement was reached everyone involved would be split in every direction.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Title II enacted a clear, bright-line principle with virtually universal application. The shift in assessments of political feasibility was remarkably rapid, surprising many veteran observers. The reason for the swing, however, is not difficult to identify. Behind the scenes, the administration was hearing from national drug and variety store chains, who recognized that limited, narrowly defined desegregation would perpetuate uncertainty and could put complying firms at a competitive disadvantage. In the House of Representatives, which fended off all efforts to water down Title II, debate was marked by the virtual absence of organized business opposition. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Nevertheless, the new principle might have been far less effective if not for the active participation of Civil Rights groups (who stood ready to test the new law from the day it went into effect), meaningful enforcement by the Department of Justice, and consistent support from the courts. Civil Rights leaders launched a massive effort to test compliance and seek implementation of Title II within minutes of President Johnson’s signing. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Morrison’s, the largest cafeteria chain in the South, announced that it would serve Negroes “rather than buck the Federal Government.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Resistance flared in a number of well-publicized cases, primarily in smaller towns and rural areas that had not seen sit-ins and protests. The Justice Department brought ninety-three cases in the first three years (supplemented by many private suits), serving notice that outright defiance would be prosecuted. By the early 1970s litigation had moved on to socially sensitive areas such as bowling alleys and skating rinks, ultimately bringing almost all of these facilities under Title II coverage, even where a connection to interstate commerce was remote or absent altogether. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT As public accommodations complaints dwindled, the last attorney general’s report with a section devoted to Title II appeared in 1977. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
The speed and relative completeness of the public accommodations revolution may convey the sense that the entire issue was of secondary importance, but this perception is only plausible in retrospect. In its day, this was a hot-button issue. Joseph Singer has noted that many areas of commerce such as retail trade are probably not covered by Title II, even though most Americans (including law professors) assume that they are. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The reason for this disjuncture, he argues, is that “the civil rights statutes passed in the 1960s had a revolutionary impact on public attitudes . . . the prevailing social assumption now is that businesses open to the public have no right to exclude customers on the basis of race and that the law backs up that assumption.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The case of public accommodations thus stands as a prime example of social norms transformed by change in the law. Realignment of business interests under political and economic pressure was an important contributor to this outcome.
II. Racial Discrimination in Labor Markets: The Regional Context of Title VII
At the time of the Civil Rights Act, racial discrimination was pervasive in all parts of the country, but the underlying political and economic structures differed markedly by region. Unlike the rest of the country, firms in the South had explicit racial job classifications and segregated “lines of progression.” As with public accommodations, it is misleading to characterize these systems as “de jure” segregation, as very little of this system was codified into law. Even without legal buttress, segregation lines were extremely stable. Donald Dewey, virtually the only white economist at a southern university to devote research to the race issue, reported in the mid-1950s that in most plants, “the racial division of labor . . . remained fixed as far back as anyone can remember.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Segregation served to define and protect racial wage differentials; typically black wages peaked about where the white wage distribution began. Textiles, the region’s largest industry, was an extreme case, in that black workers were almost completely excluded from machine-tending positions, a tradition entrenched since the Civil War. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Earlier antidiscrimination efforts such as the wartime Fair Employment Practices Committee and state fair employment laws had some success in improving black employment status, but virtually none in the South. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
In the northern states, by contrast, labor market surveys conducted during the 1930s show no evidence of a racial wage gap. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Discrimination instead occurred on non-wage margins, such as assignment to hot, grueling, dangerous foundry jobs in the auto industry, or failure to hire altogether. From the 1930s onward, black unemployment rates were persistently higher in northern than in southern states. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT These regional differences were reflected in the very name of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where the twin goals represented the distinct keywords of the southern and non-southern movements. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Early drafts of the Civil Rights Act contained no fair employment section, an omission reversed in response to vigorous lobbying by groups allied in the Civil Rights Coalition. The administration may have felt that it had already addressed the issue through President Kennedy’s 1961 executive order requiring government contractors to take “affirmative action” towards fair employment, and the voluntary Plans for Progress program. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT But early reports from these programs indicated that “[n]umerical gains are slight.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Political pressures for a federal law that applied to private employers came from both regional branches of the movement, and the resulting Title VII prohibited discrimination in either employment or compensation, adding color, religion, national origin and sex to race as protected categories.
Nonetheless, prevailing expectations for significant progress under the Act were low, because of compromises during the legislative process. The text contained glaring loopholes, such as exemptions for “bona fide” seniority or merit systems, and protection for “professionally developed ability test[s]” so long as they were not “intended or used” to discriminate. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT More fundamentally, the newly-created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) could neither initiate lawsuits nor issue cease-and desist orders. The EEOC was essentially a conciliatory agency for resolving allegations of employment discrimination by individuals. Although these provisions limited enforcement efforts in all regions, Daniel Rodriguez and Barry Weingast argue persuasively that their primary purpose was to protect northern employers against discrimination charges, reflecting a major constituency of the Republican minority whose support was needed to overcome the Southern filibuster in the Senate. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Thus the stipulation that employers must exhibit a “pattern or practice” of discrimination seemed to target explicit southern segregation systems as opposed to subtler forms of bias elsewhere. Similarly, the requirement that petitioners must first exhaust remedies under state fair-employment offices was also decidedly regional, since the twenty-eight states that had such commissions were all non-southern.
Like the rest of the Act, Title VII was passed with the South primarily in mind. In light of the structural weaknesses of the enforcement system, however, Title VII might have been of no more consequence than earlier efforts, even in the South. What made this time different were ongoing political mobilization in the South, lawyers aggressively pursuing private discrimination suits, and a federal government responsive to these pressures.
III. Black Economic Gains Under Title VII
Despite the impression of legislative weakness, the economic status of African-Americans began to improve at an accelerated pace after passage of the Civil Rights Act, especially in the South. The discontinuity in relative black incomes around 1965 has been established by several empirical studies. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The predominance of the South in these gains has also been confirmed by studies that disaggregate by region. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Supplementary confirmation comes from the finding that black employment gains were greater at large employers covered by Title VII relative to others; and that these gains were extended to newly-covered employers when the Act was amended in 1972. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Some recent surveys have conveyed the impression that determining the impact of Title VII on black labor market outcomes is a tough statistical challenge because the near-universality of coverage meant that this was a policy experiment with no control group. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The fact of black economic progress, especially in the South, can hardly be denied. But how can we know with confidence that these changes would not have happened anyway in the absence of federal legislation as the result of long-term trends in education and economic development?
Once one recognizes that discriminatory structures in the South were very different than in other parts of the country, the story is not that complicated. Within the South, there is virtually no evidence of any positive pre-trend in relative black incomes or occupational status, nor any weakening of employment segregation, prior to the 1960s. Figure 1 offers some sense of just how abrupt the change was in the important case of the textiles industry. The figures are for South Carolina because only that state tracked industry employment by race on an annual basis. But all indications are that the timing in other textile states was similar. It is true that wages for textile workers were rising in the 1960s so that employers had an incentive to tap into a new source of labor. But Figure 1 shows that earlier episodes of labor-market tightness, including both world wars, had no more than modest transitory effects on black exclusion. During the 1960s, in contrast, the break in industry demand for black labor occurred almost simultaneously in the textile counties of the state, regardless of local demographic or economic conditions. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT One could hardly ask for a clearer before-and-after test.
South Carolina Department of Labor, Annual Reports, 1918-1982.
It is true that the relative quality of southern black schools had improved from its low point in the 1920s, as measured by such indicators as teacher salaries, pupil-teacher ratios, and the length of the school year. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
The gains came about through a combination of philanthropic support from outside the region (most prominently the Rosenwald Fund) and NAACP-sponsored litigation to enforce the “equal” part of the Plessy v. Ferguson NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
principle. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Progress in education was undoubtedly important in facilitating economic change in the 1960s. But econometric analyses that control for years of schooling still show a significant structural break in the mid-1960s. The most striking finding in the study by economists David Card and Alan Krueger is the sharp increase in the return
to black schooling in that decade, a shift more closely linked to the location of work than of prior schooling. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Looking forward from 1964, studies that control for education understate the change associated with Title VII, because of dynamic complementarity between schooling and occupational progress.
Federal Census data show no evidence of progress in southern black occupational status between 1950 and 1960, though in other regions black employment shares drifted upward in such categories as clerical, sales, and skilled blue-collar jobs. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Any positive pre-trend was therefore confined to non-southern states. Annual income data from the Current Population Survey confirm this picture of slow progress in the Northeast and Midwest versus stagnation or even retrogression in the South until the 1960s (Figure 2). Despite a decade of robust real wage growth for most Americans, median real income for black male southerners was no higher in 1963 than it had been ten years earlier. For black women, the turning point may have been a year or two earlier, but the pattern was essentially similar. Thus the most that a Title VII-skeptic can claim is that the economic tide for black southerners had begun to turn shortly prior to enactment.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. Current Population Survey. Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Historical Income Data. Table P-5.
It would be surprising if there were no signs of southern black progress prior to 1965. The Civil Rights Movement had been pushing for “responsible jobs” for years. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Virtually every demand for access to services was coupled with demands for jobs providing those services, as in the Birmingham sandwich boards reading “Don’t buy where you can’t be a salesman.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Civil Rights groups also pressured the federal government to enforce President Kennedy’s 1961 executive order
, generating at least some affirmative action efforts on the part of southern contractors, such as Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Progress under the voluntary Plans for Progress program was disappointingly slow, but it wasn’t zero! The main point is this: virtually all of the incremental progress of the early 1960s came in response to the Civil Rights Movement. One might argue that as a matter of historical causation, it was the Movement itself, rather than Title VII, that deserves the lion’s share of the credit. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Yet even on this reading, any pre-Title VII employment gains pale in quantitative comparison to those that came after passage of the Act and the leverage it provided for accomplishing the goals of the Movement.
An additional problem in trying to isolate the effects of Title VII is that in the same year its provisions went into effect (1965), President Johnson issued Executive Order 11,246, NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT requiring government contractors to undertake affirmative action towards nondiscrimination and creating the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (“OFCC”) (later the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”)) to enforce these rules. Studies have shown that black occupational and employment gains were greater at firms with government contracts, particularly those undergoing compliance reviews. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Even controlling for the effects of executive-order compliance, class-action litigation under Title VII is found to have had additional favorable effects on black employment. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT But clearly both channels were parts of a single federal campaign to expand black employment opportunities. Since the OFCCP, the Justice Department, and the EEOC influenced each other and often worked together, trying to distinguish their separate effects with precision seems futile. The futility of the effort is underscored by considering that all of the tests rely on cross-sectional comparisons between firms directly affected and others. They therefore do not include actions taken by firms in order to avoid or preempt litigation or compliance reviews. In all likelihood, this category comprised the better part of the historical change.
How was it that an enforcement system designed to be weak had such powerful effects, and why were these effects so much larger and more lasting in the South? For the early post-Act years, answers to both questions include the strength of southern grassroots mobilization and legal activism. These pressures fostered an expansive reading of Title VII on the part of the EEOC and in turn by the courts. In the previously all-white southern textiles industry, firms were flooded with job applications from aspiring black workers, encouraged by the EEOC. Floyd Harris, one of the first black textile workers in West Point, Georgia, recalled:
I was active in the social revolution that went on from the fifties, through the sixties and early seventies, so I was aware of what the black leaders were talking about. We wrote the laws and they passed the Civil Rights bill, and I knew that if the federal government made it a law it’d have to be followed. Our management here is smart and they knew it too. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Textile management may have been “smart,” but not many were farsighted enough to see in advance that their interests would be served by racial integration. They did not speak out in favor of Title VII, and when the EEOC held hearings in Charlotte in 1967, employers declined to participate. Managers shared many of the same racial prejudices held by white workers, anticipating that new black hires would undermine work performance. When the experiment was actually tried, however, the typical result was “no discernible difference in productivity” between blacks and whites. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT By 1969, The New York Times reported: “Virtually all of the large companies have begun to preach a doctrine of equal, color-blind employment.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Other southern industries took longer to integrate, often requiring extensive litigation. But here too, grassroots activism was crucial. The landmark case Griggs v. Duke Power NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT originated when a group of janitors in the all-black Labor Department of the Dan River Steam Station submitted a letter requesting transfers to previously white departments when vacancies became available. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The janitors had strong incentives to transfer, as the maximum wage earned by any of them was $1.645 per hour, whether or not they had a high school education, while the minimum paid to any white worker (many of whom also did not have a high school degree) was $1.875 per hour. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT They were informed that standards were being raised and that they were welcome to take the new test, instituted on the same date that Title VII went into effect. The group forwarded their complaint to the EEOC, which attempted conciliation but was essentially snubbed by the firm. Only then did the janitors turn to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which assisted them in filing suit. The upshot five years later was a Supreme Court ruling that tests having a disparate impact on minorities could be invalid regardless of intent, unless shown to be related to job performance. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Griggs and related rulings gave new credibility to EEOC guidelines and impelled far more thoroughgoing change than firms had initially anticipated. Citations to the case rose steadily through the 1970s, peaking in 1980 before declining in the next decade. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Thus, the ongoing Civil Rights Movement shaped an expansive understanding of Title VII that went well beyond what might have been understood from the text itself. Under pressure to produce tangible results, the EEOC moved within its first few years away from its original focus on mediating disputes towards a more “wholesale approach,” targeting industries and metropolitan areas where under-representation was severe, and emphasizing numerical goals for minority employment. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT The EEOC and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund assisted each other in developing legal theories to support these measures. The EEOC revised its guidelines on testing in 1970, after Griggs had been argued in the court of appeals, and the Solicitor General urged the Supreme Court to give great deference to these guidelines. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Thus the Court had a well-developed body of theory to draw upon. It has been argued that the combination of strongly-motivated private lawsuits and an ostensibly weak agency exercising persuasive powers was more potent than a more centralized enforcement structure would have been. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT We can only guess at the historical alternative, but activism clearly made a difference.
For similarly pragmatic reasons, the OFCC moved towards a “numbers-oriented affirmative action approach” in its reviews to determine whether federal contractors were in compliance. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT A key step was OFCC’s Order 4 in early 1970, which required employers to submit explicit affirmative action plans, including “goals and timetables” specifying how many minorities the contractor would attempt to hire in a specified period. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Sociologist Frank Dobbin reports that by the end of the 1970s, the majority of large U.S. firms had adopted explicit antidiscrimination policies, personnel offices, job postings and centralized hiring, promotion and discharge practices. “By the early 1980s,” he writes, “leading firms had troops on hand who were fighting for equal opportunity programs. They had internalized the civil rights movement.” NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT This statement may overstate the level of corporate idealism, but when the Reagan Administration proposed to dismantle affirmative action in the mid-1980s, business groups successfully opposed these measures, making it clear that they planned to maintain their programs despite cutbacks in government enforcement. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
IV. Regional Persistence After 1980
Not yet explained in this formulation is why advances in black economic status mainly occurred and persisted in the South. Between 1965 and 1971, the majority of charges filed with the EEOC and an even larger share of Title VII legal cases came from the South. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT This regional pattern might have been an indicator of the severity of southern discrimination, but it also reflected the strong southern black record of mobilization, represented by a Legal Defense Fund network of more than 200 cooperating lawyers, most of them African-Americans working in the South. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT Although it was certainly not inevitable that the courts would rule as aggressively as they did during this era, in retrospect these were relatively easy cases. Southern firms maintained labor systems that were explicitly racial and undeniably unequal, excluding blacks from all job categories except the lowest. So distinct were the legal issues that the body of legal doctrine emerging from court decisions came to be known as the “Southern jurisprudence” of employment discrimination. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
The gains from breaking down these structures in blue-collar occupations were large and immediate. Most relative black wage growth between 1960 and 1970 was due to the shift from “laborer” into higher-paying “operative” and “craftsman” positions, plus relative wage increases within these categories. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
Figure 3 displays black employment shares after 1966 in white-collar and blue-collar occupations by region. Between 1966 and 1980, blue-collar employment gains were by no means limited to the South, but the size of the southern shift (as well as its economic payoff) was far larger during that period. Impelled by urban riots, the EEOC made serious efforts to address discrimination elsewhere, conducting a series of highly publicized hearings in northern and western states beginning in 1968. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT
These non-southern forms of discrimination proved less responsive to legal and political pressure. Throughout the 1970s, however, advocates and government officials could point to steady gains in minority employment in higher-paid jobs, despite the economic turbulence of that decade. NOTEREF _Ref284886297 \h \* MERGEFORMAT