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The Wage Gains of African-American Women in the 1940s

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  • Martha J. Bailey
  • William J. Collins

Abstract

The weekly wage gap between black and white female workers narrowed by 15 percentage points during the 1940s. We employ a semi-parametric technique to decompose changes in the distribution of wages. We find that changes in worker characteristics (such as education, occupation and industry, and region of residence) can account for a significant portion of wage convergence between black and white women, but that changes in the wage structure, including large black-specific gains within regions, occupations, industries, and educational groups, made the largest contributions. The single most important contributing factor to the observed convergence was a sharp increase in the relative wages of service workers (where black workers were heavily concentrated) even as black women moved out of domestic service jobs.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10621.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Bailey, Martha J. & Collins, William J., 2006. "The Wage Gains of African-American Women in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 737-777, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10621

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  1. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1991. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid- Century," NBER Working Papers 3817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John J. Donohue III & James Heckman, 1991. "Continuous Versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks," NBER Working Papers 3894, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
  4. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-56, September.
  5. Smith, James P, 1984. "Race and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 685-98, September.
  6. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  7. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
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Cited by:
  1. Martha J. Bailey & William J. Collins, 2011. "Did Improvements in Household Technology Cause the Baby Boom? Evidence from Electrification, Appliance Diffusion, and the Amish," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 189-217, April.
  2. Frydman, Carola & Molloy, Raven, 2012. "Pay Cuts for the Boss: Executive Compensation in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(01), pages 225-251, March.

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