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Racial Labor Market Gaps: The Role of Abilities and Schooling Choices


  • Sergio Urzúa


This paper studies the relationship between abilities, schooling choices, and black-white differentials in labor market outcomes. The analysis is based on a model of endogenous schooling choices. Agents’ schooling decisions are based on expected future earnings, family background, and unobserved abilities. Earnings are also determined by unobserved abilities. The analysis distinguishes unobserved abilities from observed test scores. The model is implemented using data from the NLSY79. The results indicate that, even after controlling for abilities, there exist significant racial labor market gaps. They also suggest that the standard practice of equating observed test scores may overcompensate for differentials in ability.

Suggested Citation

  • Sergio Urzúa, 2008. "Racial Labor Market Gaps: The Role of Abilities and Schooling Choices," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(4).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:43:y:2008:i4:p919-971

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J & Masterov, Dimitriy V, 2005. "Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 1-39, April.
    2. John Bound & Richard B. Freeman, 1992. "What Went Wrong? The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment Among Young Black Men in the 1980s," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 201-232.
    3. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-1160, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. María F. Prada & Sergio S. Urzúa, 2014. "One Size does not Fit All: Multiple Dimensions of Ability, College Attendance and Wages," NBER Working Papers 20752, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Thiel, Hendrik & Thomsen, Stephan L., 2013. "Noncognitive skills in economics: Models, measurement, and empirical evidence," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 189-214.
    3. Jorge Rodríguez & Sergio Urzúa & Loreto Reyes, 2016. "Heterogeneous Economic Returns to Post-Secondary Degrees: Evidence from Chile," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 416-460.
    4. Heckman, James J. & Urzúa, Sergio, 2010. "Comparing IV with structural models: What simple IV can and cannot identify," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 27-37, May.
    5. Gregory Veramendi & Sergio Urzúa, 2011. "The Impact of Out-of-Home Childcare Centers on Early Childhood Development," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 3065, Inter-American Development Bank.
    6. Lex Borghans & Bas Ter Weel & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2014. "People Skills and the Labor-Market Outcomes of Underrepresented Groups," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 67(2), pages 287-334, April.
    7. Dionissi Aliprantis, 2013. "Human capital in the inner city," Working Paper 1302, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    8. Judith K. Hellerstein & David Neumark, 2011. "Employment in Black Urban Labor Markets: Problems and Solutions," NBER Working Papers 16986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Jonathan Fisher & Christina Houseworth, 2012. "The reverse wage gap among educated White and Black women," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 10(4), pages 449-470, December.
    10. Laura Turner & Aloysius Siow & Gueorgui Kambourov, 2014. "Relationship Skills in the Labor and Marriage Markets," 2014 Meeting Papers 155, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    11. Papageorge, Nicholas W. & Ronda, Victor & Zheng, Yu, 2017. "The Economic Value of Breaking Bad: Misbehavior, Schooling and the Labor Market," IZA Discussion Papers 10822, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Wayne A. Grove & Andrew Hussey & Michael Jetter, 2011. "The Gender Pay Gap Beyond Human Capital: Heterogeneity in Noncognitive Skills and in Labor Market Tastes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(4), pages 827-874.

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