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Wages, Racial Composition, and Quality Sorting in Labor Markets

  • Hirsch, B.T.
  • Macpherson, D.A.

This paper examines the relationship between wage rates and the racial composition of jobs, using large cross-sectional and longitudinal samples constructed from monthly Current Population Surveys for 1983-92. Support is found for a "quality sorting" model that posits an equilibrium in which the racial composition of jobs serves as a skill index of unmeasured labor quality. Estimation of standard wage-level equations shows that wages of both black and white workers are substantially lower in occupations with a high density of blacks. Consistent with the quality sorting hypothesis, the magnitude of the relationship is reduced sharply after accounting for occupational skill measures. Longitudinal wage-change estimates controlling for person-specific quality indicate little if any causal effect of racial composition on wages. Estimates of racial discrimination are reduced only moderately after accounting for racial composition; unexplained differentials occur within occupations or reflect inter-occupational differences uncorrelated with racial composition and occupational skill measures.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, Florida State University in its series Working Papers with number 1994_01_01.

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Length: 20 pages
Date of creation: 1994
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fsu:wpaper:1994_01_01
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  1. James F. Ragan & Carol Horton Tremblay, 1988. "Testing for Employee Discrimination by Race and Sex," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(1), pages 123-137.
  2. Andrew M. Gill, 1989. "The role of discrimination in determining occupational structure," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 42(4), pages 610-623, July.
  3. Gibbons, Robert & Katz, Lawrence F, 1992. "Does Unmeasured Ability Explain Inter-industry Wage Differentials?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 515-35, July.
  4. Francisco L. Rivera-Batiz, 1992. "Quantitative Literacy and the Likelihood of Employment among Young Adults in the United States," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(2), pages 313-328.
  5. John Bound & Alan B. Krueger, 1989. "The Extent of Measurement Error In Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make A Right?," NBER Working Papers 2885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Card, David & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Wage dispersion, returns to skill, and black-white wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 319-361, October.
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  8. Paracchi, F. & Welch, F., 1992. "How Representative Are Matched Cross Sections? Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Working Papers 92-53, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  11. Chiswick, Barry R, 1973. "Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: A Test of Alternative Hypotheses," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(6), pages 1330-52, Nov.-Dec..
  12. Michael Reich, 1978. "Who Benefits from Racism? The Distribution among Whites of Gains and Losses from Racial Inequality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 13(4), pages 524-544.
  13. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1992. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 151-200, February.
  14. Lang, Kevin, 1986. "A Language Theory of Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 363-82, May.
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  16. Mellow, Wesley & Sider, Hal, 1983. "Accuracy of Response in Labor Market Surveys: Evidence and Implications," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(4), pages 331-44, October.
  17. Barry T. Hirsch & Edward J. Schumacher, 1992. "Labor Earnings, Discrimination, and the Racial Composition of Jobs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(4), pages 602-628.
  18. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, April.
  19. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  20. O'Neill, June, 1990. "The Role of Human Capital in Earnings Differences between Black and White Men," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 25-45, Fall.
  21. Bergmann, Barbara R, 1971. "The Effect on White Incomes of Discrimination in Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(2), pages 294-313, March-Apr.
  22. Heckman, James J & Payner, Brook S, 1989. "Determining the Impact of Federal Antidiscrimination Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks: A Study of South Carolina," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 138-77, March.
  23. Hwang, Hae-shin & Reed, W Robert & Hubbard, Carlton, 1992. "Compensating Wage Differentials and Unobserved Productivity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 835-58, August.
  24. William T. Dickens & Brian A. Ross, 1984. "Consistent Estimation Using Data From More Than One Sample," NBER Technical Working Papers 0033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Johnson, George & Solon, Gary, 1986. "Estimates of the Direct Effects of Comparable Worth Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1117-25, December.
  26. David Card, 1992. "The Effect of Unions on the Distribution of Wages: Redistribution or Relabelling?," NBER Working Papers 4195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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