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Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality

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  • Robert A. Margo

    (Boston University)

Abstract

This paper is my presidential address to the Economic History Association. In it, I review and extend the economic history of racial differences in per capita income from 1870 to the present. Specifically, I revise pre-World War Two benchmark estimates of Black/White income ratios originally prepared by Robert Higgs. The Higgs benchmarks suggest that the Black/White income ratio increased from 1870 to 1900, but the trend was flat from 1900 to 1940. Compared with the Higgs benchmarks, mine show less convergence before 1900 but more between 1900 and 1940. When my new benchmarks are combined with standard post-World War Two census data they suggest that the underlying pace of Black/White income convergence has been absolutely slow, with the notable exceptions of the 1940s and the period of the modern Civil Rights Movement. I explore the interpretation of these long-run features with a model of intergenerational transmission of racial inequality in which racial differences in causal factors that determine income are initially enormous after the Civil War and which erode slowly across generations.
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  • Robert A. Margo, "undated". "Obama, Katrina, and the Persistence of Racial Inequality," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-272, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bos:iedwpr:dp-272
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    File URL: http://www.bu.edu/econ/files/2016/04/Margo-EHA-Presidential-Address.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Basker, Emek & Vickers, Chris & Ziebarth, Nicolas L., 2018. "Competition, productivity, and survival of grocery stores in the Great Depression," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 282-315.
    3. Martha J. Bailey & Connor Cole & Morgan Henderson & Catherine Massey, 2020. "How Well Do Automated Linking Methods Perform? Lessons from US Historical Data," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 58(4), pages 997-1044, December.
    4. Jung, Yeonha, 2020. "The long reach of cotton in the US South: Tenant farming, mechanization, and low-skill manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    5. Jeremiah Richey & Nikolas Tromp, 2021. "The Black–White wage gap among young men in 1990 versus 2011: With sample selection adjustments," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 73(4), pages 780-805, October.
    6. Shariq Mohammed, A.R., 2019. "Does a good father now have to be rich? Intergenerational income mobility in rural India," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 99-114.
    7. Johannes C. Buggle & Steven Nafziger, 2021. "The Slow Road from Serfdom: Labor Coercion and Long-Run Development in the Former Russian Empire," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 103(1), pages 1-17, March.
    8. Saavedra, Martin & Twinam, Tate, 2020. "A machine learning approach to improving occupational income scores," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 75(C).
    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. Marianne H Wanamaker, 2017. "150 Years of Economic Progress for African American Men: Measuring Outcomes and Sizing Up Roadblocks," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(3), pages 211-220, September.
    11. Jung, Yeonha, 2018. "The Legacy of King Cotton: Agricultural Patterns and the Quality of Structural Change," SocArXiv trjfz, Center for Open Science.

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    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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