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Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination

Author

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  • Fryer Jr., Roland G.

Abstract

There are large and important differences between blacks in whites in nearly every facet of life--earnings, unemployment, incarceration, health, and so on. This chapter contains three themes. First, relative to the 20th century, the significance of discrimination as an explanation for racial inequality across economic and social indicators has declined. Racial differences in social and economic outcomes are greatly reduced when one accounts for educational achievement; therefore, the new challenge is to understand the obstacles undermining the development of skill in black and Hispanic children in primary and secondary school. Second, analyzing ten large datasets that include children ranging in age from eight months old seventeen years old, we demonstrate that the racial achievement gap is remarkably robust across time, samples, and particular assessments used. The gap does not exist in the first year of life, but black students fall behind quickly thereafter and observables cannot explain differences between racial groups after kindergarten. Third, we provide a brief history of efforts to close the achievement gap. There are several programs--various early childhood interventions, more flexibility and stricter accountability for schools, data-driven instruction, smaller class sizes, certain student incentives, and bonuses for effective teachers to teach in high-need schools, which have a positive return on investment, but they cannot close the achievement gap in isolation. More promising are results from a handful of high-performing charter schools, which combine many of the investments above in a comprehensive framework and provide an "existence proof"--demonstrating that a few simple investments can dramatically increase the achievement of even the poorest minority students. The challenge for the future is to take these examples to scale.

Suggested Citation

  • Fryer Jr., Roland G., 2011. "Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:labchp:5-10
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter McHenry & Melissa McInerney, 2015. "Estimating Hispanic-White Wage Gaps Among Women: The Importance of Controlling for Cost of Living," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 36(3), pages 249-273, September.
    2. Robert W. Fairlie & Florian Hoffmann & Philip Oreopoulos, 2014. "A Community College Instructor Like Me: Race and Ethnicity Interactions in the Classroom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(8), pages 2567-2591, August.
    3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Devah Pager & Jörg L. Spenkuch, 2013. "Racial Disparities in Job Finding and Offered Wages," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56(3), pages 633-689.
    4. Ellis, Jimmy R. & Gershenson, Seth, 2016. "LATE for the Meeting: Gender, Peer Advising, and College Success," IZA Discussion Papers 9956, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Fryer, Roland G., 2016. "Information, non-financial incentives, and student achievement: Evidence from a text messaging experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 109-121.
    6. Jacoby, Hanan G. & Mansuri, Ghazala, 2015. "Crossing boundaries: How social hierarchy impedes economic mobility," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 135-154.
    7. Kertesi, Gábor & Kézdi, Gábor, 2012. "A roma és nem roma tanulók teszteredményei közti különbségekről és e különbségek okairól
      [The Roma/non-Roma test-score gap in Hungarian education]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(7), pages 798-853.
    8. repec:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/690944 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Randall Akee & Maggie R. Jones & Sonya R. Porter, 2017. "Race Matters: Income Shares, Income Inequality, and Income Mobility for All U.S. Races," NBER Working Papers 23733, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. repec:eee:labeco:v:50:y:2018:i:c:p:45-66 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Holt, Stephen B. & Papageorge, Nicholas W., 2016. "Who believes in me? The effect of student–teacher demographic match on teacher expectationsAuthor-Name: Gershenson, Seth," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 209-224.
    12. Celeste K. Carruthers & Marianne H. Wanamaker, 2017. "Separate and Unequal in the Labor Market: Human Capital and the Jim Crow Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 655-696.
    13. 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 (U.S.).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Racial achievement gap; Charter schools; Racial inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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