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Employment and Earnings: A Case Study of Urban Detroit


  • Lisa Saunders



This paper investigates the roles of manufacturing employment, neighborhood poverty, and family structure in determining wages among Detroit, MI workers, just prior to the current economic crisis. Employment in manufacturing has been crucial for blacks and whites: 39% of black and of white men in the Detroit metropolitan area worked in manufacturing in 2000. Regression analysis in this paper estimates employment in manufacturing raised wages 15.8% for all workers in the metropolitan area, 24.4% for blacks and 13.8% for whites. It finds a higher wage penalty (4.7%) for blacks in non-manufacturing industries than is found when manufacturing sector jobs are included (2.6%). Wage returns to education were greater in the non-manufacturing employment sector, especially for blacks. Residence in the poorest central city neighborhoods reduced wages significantly for white manufacturing and non-manufacturing workers. Its coefficient was insignificant for black workers. Gender and marital status effects on wages differed between blacks and whites in magnitude: White women suffered a larger penalty for their sex than black women (22.6 versus 9.6%) yet black men enjoyed a greater return to marriage than white men (27.5 versus 25.0%). Controlling for manufacturing reduced the gender wage gap and the returns to marriage for men. These findings suggest greater accessibility for women; and lower returns to marriage in non-manufacturing sectors. Among employed blacks access to manufacturing jobs has been their main source of decent wages. The adverse effects of the industry’s job loss in the 1980s and 1990s impacted all Detroit residents. Other high wage industries have employed relatively few blacks, have not paid them well; and have suffered job loss and slow growth over the period. Education could have raised wages for non-manufacturing workers, but not as much as access to manufacturing jobs. Today as in 2000, Detroit’s residents desperately need job creation or relocation to the central city; and job training and anti-discrimination policy enforcement throughout the metro-area. All of these would be necessary to offset job loss and reduce inequality and poverty in Detroit. The extent to which blacks will benefit from 2010–11 improvements in manufacturing employment in Detroit depends upon whether private companies and the state provide equal access to the jobs and the training new technologies require. Copyright Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Lisa Saunders, 2012. "Employment and Earnings: A Case Study of Urban Detroit," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 39(1), pages 107-119, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:blkpoe:v:39:y:2012:i:1:p:107-119
    DOI: 10.1007/s12114-011-9128-9

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Steven Raphael & Michael A. Stoll, 2000. "Can Boosting Minority Car-Ownership Rates Narrow Inter-Racial Employment Gaps," JCPR Working Papers 200, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    2. Raphael, Steven, 1998. "The Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis and Black Youth Joblessness: Evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 79-111, January.
    3. Samuel L. Myers & Chanjin Chung & Lisa Saunders, 2001. "Racial Differences in Transportation Access to Employment in Chicago and Los Angeles, 1980 and 1990," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 174-177, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:ssi:jouesi:v:1:y:2013:i:1:p:55-66 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Gitana Dudzevičiūtė, 2013. "Lithuanian manufacturing trends in the context of developed and developing countries," Post-Print hal-01694317, HAL.


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