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The Economic Status of Asian Americans Before and After the Civil Rights Act

Author

Listed:
  • Harriet Orcutt Duleep

    () (Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy, The College of William and Mary)

  • Seth Sanders

    () (Duke Sanford School of Public Policy)

Abstract

In contrast to their relative standing in today’s labor market, in 1960 U.S.-born men in all Asian groups earned substantially less than comparable whites. We explore explanations for the wage gap and find that all of the variables that might plausibly account for it, such as Asian/white differences in schooling, labor force participation, entrepreneurial and agricultural employment, English proficiency, enclave activity, and foreign-born parentage, have either no effect or only modest effects on the 1960 wage gap and its subsequent reduction. Our findings suggest that anti-Asian labor market discrimination was the predominate cause of the 1960 wage gap and that most of the 1960 to 1980 improvement in the relative wages of U.S.-born Asian men stemmed from a decline in anti-Asian discrimination. Although much of the policy focus of the civil rights era was directed at reducing discrimination against blacks, our findings suggest a prominent post-Civil Rights Act labor market effect for Asians. If these results hold up to further scrutiny, one interpretation is that the Civil Rights Act and accompanying activities, and/or concomitant changes in societal attitudes, benefited all minorities.

Suggested Citation

  • Harriet Orcutt Duleep & Seth Sanders, 2013. "The Economic Status of Asian Americans Before and After the Civil Rights Act," Working Papers 135, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:135
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    File URL: http://economics.wm.edu/wp/cwm_wp135.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kevin Lang, 1986. "A Language Theory of Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 363-382.
    2. 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 1603-1643, December.
    3. Duleep, Harriet & Regets, Mark, 2012. "The Civil Rights Act and the Earnings of Lower Income Hispanic Men in the 1960's," IZA Discussion Papers 6638, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1984. "The Impact of Affirmative Action on Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(4), pages 439-463, October.
    5. Harriet Duleep & Mark Regets, 1997. "Measuring immigrant wage growth using matched CPS files," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 34(2), pages 239-249, May.
    6. Richard B. Freeman, 1973. "Changes in the Labor Market for Black Americans, 1948-72," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(1), pages 67-132.
    7. Chiswick, Barry R, 1983. "An Analysis of the Earnings and Employment of Asian-American Men," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(2), pages 197-214, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    anti-discrimination legislation; minority economic progress; Asian Americans; Civil Rights Act;

    JEL classification:

    • J48 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Particular Labor Markets; Public Policy
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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