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Changing Wage Structure and Black-White Differentials Among Men and Women: A Longitudinal Analysis

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  • David Card
  • Thomas Lemieux

Abstract

Despite several decades of research there is still widespread disagreement over the interpretation of the wage differences between black and white workers. Do the differences reflect productivity differences, discrimination, or both? If lower black earnings reflect a productivity difference, then an economy-wide increase in the relative wages of more highly-skilled workers should lead to a parallel increase in the black-white earnings gap. We evaluate this hypothesis using longitudinal data for men and women from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our findings suggest that returns to observed and unobserved skills of male workers rose by 5-10 percent between 1979 and 1985. For female workers, the return to observed skills was relatively constant while the return to unobserved skills increased by 15 percent. The evidence that black-white wage differentials rise with the return to skill is mixed. Among female workers the black-white wage gap widened in the early 1980s -- consistent with the premise that racial wage differences reflect a productivity difference. For men in our sample the black-white wage gap declined between 1979 and 1985 -- a change that is inconsistent with the rise in the return for skills.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4755.

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Date of creation: May 1994
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Publication status: published as American Economic Review, Vol. 84, No. 2, pp. 29-33, May 1994.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4755

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  1. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  2. Murphy, Kevin M & Welch, Finis, 1993. "Inequality and Relative Wages," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 104-09, May.
  3. John Bound & Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "What Went Wrong? The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment Among Young Black Men in the 1980s," NBER Working Papers 3778, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Gallant, A. Ronald & Jorgenson, Dale W., 1979. "Statistical inference for a system of simultaneous, non-linear, implicit equations in the context of instrumental variable estimation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 11(2-3), pages 275-302.
  5. Blau, Francine D & Beller, Andrea H, 1992. "Black-White Earnings over the 1970s and 1980s: Gender Differences in Trends," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 276-86, May.
  6. Smith, James P, 1993. "Affirmative Action and the Racial Wage Gap," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 79-84, May.
  7. Kevin Murphy & Mark Plant & Finis Welch, 1984. "Cohort Size and Earnings," UCLA Economics Working Papers 352, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Newey, Whitney & Rosen, Harvey S, 1988. "Estimating Vector Autoregressions with Panel Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(6), pages 1371-95, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Borghans, Lex & ter Weel, Bas & Weinberg, Bruce A., 2005. "People People: Social Capital and the Labor-Market Outcomes of Underrepresented Groups," IZA Discussion Papers 1494, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Becky Pettit & Stephanie Ewert, 2009. "Employment gains and wage declines: The erosion of black women’s relative wages since 1980," Demography, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 469-492, August.
  3. Bas ter Weel & Lex Borghans & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2013. "People Skills and the Labor-Market Outcomes of Underrepresented Groups," CPB Discussion Paper 253, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.

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