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Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors

  • Carneiro, Pedro
  • Heckman, James J
  • Masterov, Dimitriy V

This paper investigates the relative significance of differences in cognitive skills and discrimination in explaining racial/ethnic wage gaps. We show that cognitive test scores for exams taken prior to entering the labor market are influenced by schooling. Adjusting the scores for racial/ethnic differences in education at the time the test is taken reduces their role in accounting for the wage gaps. We also consider evidence on parental and child expectations about education and on stereotype threat effects. We find both factors to be implausible alternative explanations for the gaps we observe. We argue that policies need to address the sources of early skill gaps and to seek to influence the more malleable behavioral abilities in addition to their cognitive counterparts. Such policies are far more likely to be effective in promoting racial and ethnic equality for most groups than are additional civil rights and affirmative action policies targeted at the workplace.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 48 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 1-39

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:y:2005:v:48:i:1:p:1-39
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLE/

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  1. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman, 2007. "The Technology of Skill Formation," NBER Working Papers 12840, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Karsten Hansen & James J. Heckman & Kathleen J. Mullen, 2003. "The Effect of Schooling and Ability on Achievement Test Scores," NBER Working Papers 9881, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Yona Rubinstein & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Importance of Noncognitive Skills: Lessons from the GED Testing Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 145-149, May.
  4. James Heckman, 2011. "Policies to foster human capital," Educational Studies, Higher School of Economics, issue 3, pages 73-137.
  5. Donohue, John J, III & Heckman, James, 1991. "Continuous versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1603-43, December.
  6. Derek Neal, 2004. "The Measured Black-White Wage Gap among Women Is Too Small," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages S1-S28, February.
  7. Yoram Ben-Porath, 1967. "The Production of Human Capital and the Life Cycle of Earnings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 352.
  8. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James Heckman & Lance Lochner & Christopher Taber, 1998. "Explaining Rising Wage Inequality: Explanations With A Dynamic General Equilibrium Model of Labor Earnings With Heterogeneous Agents," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(1), pages 1-58, January.
  10. Robert Bornholz & James J. Heckman, 2004. "Measuring Disparate Impacts and Extending Disparate Impact Doctrine to Organ Transplantation," NBER Working Papers 10946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Eliana Garces & Duncan Thomas & Janet Currie, 2000. "Longer Term Effects of Head Start," Working Papers 00-20, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  12. Janet Currie & Duncan Thomas, 1998. "School Quality and the Longer-Term Effects of Head Start," NBER Working Papers 6362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Sandra E. Black & Amir Sufi, 2002. "Who Goes to College? Differential Enrollment by Race and Family Background," NBER Working Papers 9310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1999. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites," NBER Working Papers 7249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-95, October.
  17. Melissa Osborne & Herbert Gintis & Samuel Bowles, 2001. "The Determinants of Earnings: A Behavioral Approach," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1137-1176, December.
  18. John Cawley & James Heckman & Edward Vytlacil, 1999. "On Policies To Reward The Value Added By Educators," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 720-727, November.
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