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Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?

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  • Neal, Derek

Abstract

All data sources indicate that black-white skill gaps diminished over most of the 20th century, but black-white skill gaps as measured by test scores among youth and educational attainment among young adults have remained constant or increased in absolute value since the late 1980s. I examine the potential importance of discrimination against skilled black workers, changes in black family structures, changes in black household incomes, black-white differences in parenting norms, and education policy as factors that may contribute to the recent stability of black-white skill gaps. Absent changes in public policy or the economy that facilitate investment in black children, best case scenarios suggest that even approximate black-white skill parity is not possible before 2050, and equally plausible scenarios imply that the black-white skill gap will remain quite significant throughout the 21st century.

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This chapter was published in:

  • Erik Hanushek & F. Welch (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Education," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1, June.
    This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of the Economics of Education with number 1-09.

    Handle: RePEc:eee:educhp:1-09

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    Web page: http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?isbn=9780444513991

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    Keywords: basic skills; black-white differences; convergence;

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