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Has Education Paid Off for Black Workers?

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  • John Schmitt
  • Janelle Jones

Abstract

Over the past three decades, the “human capital” of the employed black workforce has increased enormously. In 1979, only one-in-ten (10.4 percent) black workers had a four-year college degree or more. By 2011, more than one in four (26.2 percent) had a college education or more. Over the same period, the share of black workers with less than a high school degree fell from almost one-third (31.6 percent) to only about one in 20 (5.3 percent). The black workforce has also grown considerably older. In 1979, the median employed black worker was 33 years old; today, the median is 39. Economists expect that increases in education and work experience will increase workers' productivity and translate into higher compensation. But, the share of black workers in a “good job” – one that pays at least $19 per hour (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars), has employer-provided health insurance, and an employer-sponsored retirement plan – has actually declined. This paper looks at this trend and policies that would have a large, positive impact on the quality of jobs for black workers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in its series CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs with number 2013-11.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:epo:papers:2013-11

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Related research

Keywords: black workers; good jobs; retirement; pensions; health insurance; wages; labor; education; bad jobs; gender; pay equity;

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  1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805, August.
  2. Dean Baker, 2006. "Universal Voluntary Accounts: A Step Towards Fixing the Retirement System," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2006-30, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
  3. Pager, Devah & Western, Bruce & Bonikowski, Bart, 2009. "Discrimination in a Low-Wage Labor Market: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 4469, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. John Schmitt, 2005. "How Good is the Economy at Creating Good Jobs?," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2005-33, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
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