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The Emergence, Persistence, and Recent Widening of the Racial Unemployment Gap

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  • Robert W. Fairlie
  • William A. Sundstrom

Abstract

Census data show that the ratio of black to white unemployment rates, currently in excess of 2:1, was small or nonexistent before 1940, widened dramatically during the 1940s and 1950s, and widened again in the 1980s. The authors decompose changes in the unemployment gap over the years 1880–1990 to identify the separate contributions of changes in observable worker characteristics and shifts in labor demand. Nearly all of the widening of the gap during the 1940s and 1950s can be attributed to regional shifts of workers and declining demand in markets where black workers were concentrated. After 1970, improvements in the relative educational status of black workers would have narrowed the unemployment gap slightly, but demand shifts adverse to black workers more than canceled out these gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert W. Fairlie & William A. Sundstrom, 1999. "The Emergence, Persistence, and Recent Widening of the Racial Unemployment Gap," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 52(2), pages 252-270, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ilrrev:v:52:y:1999:i:2:p:252-270
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    Cited by:

    1. Zheng Fang & Chris Sakellariou, 2013. "Discrimination in the Equilibrium Search Model with Wage-Tenure Contracts," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 14(2), pages 451-480, November.
    2. Christopher J. O'Leary & Robert A. Straits, 2004. "Intergovernmental Relations in Employment Policy: The United States Experience," Book chapters authored by Upjohn Institute researchers,in: Alain Noel (ed.), Federalism and Labour market Policy: Comparing Different Governance and Employment Strategies, pages 25-82 W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    3. Rathelot, Roland, 2014. "Ethnic differentials on the labor market in the presence of asymmetric spatial sorting: Set identification and estimation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 154-167.
    4. Kenneth Couch & Robert Fairlie, 2010. "Last hired, first fired? black-white unemployment and the business cycle," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 47(1), pages 227-247, February.
    5. Arouri, Mohamed & Ben-Youssef, Adel & Nguyen, Cuong Viet, 2019. "Ethnic and racial disparities in children's education: Comparative evidence from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 503-514.
    6. Harry J. Holzer & Paul Offner, 2001. "Trends in Employment Outcomes of Young Black Men, 1979-2000," JCPR Working Papers 245, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    7. Robert W. Fairlie & Bruce D. Meyer, "undated". "Trends in Self-Employment Among White and Black Men: 1910 - 1990," IPR working papers 99-1, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
    8. William C. Horrace & Ronald L. Oaxaca, 2002. "New Wine in Old Bottles: A Sequential Estimation Technique for the LPM," Econometrics 0206002, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 11 May 2003.
    9. Patrick Bayer & Kerwin Kofi Charles, 2016. "Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940-2014," NBER Working Papers 22797, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Tomaz Cajner & Tyler Radler & David Ratner & Ivan Vidangos, 2017. "Racial Gaps in Labor Market Outcomes in the Last Four Decades and over the Business Cycle," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2017-071, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
    11. Rowland, Neil & McVicar, Duncan & Shuttleworth, Ian, 2018. "The Evolution of Catholic-Protestant Labour Market Inequality in Northern Ireland, 1983-2014," IZA Discussion Papers 11633, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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