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

Author

Listed:
  • Duleep, Harriet

    () (College of William and Mary)

  • Sanders, Seth G.

    () (Duke University)

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

  • Duleep, Harriet & Sanders, Seth G., 2012. "The Economic Status of Asian Americans Before and After the Civil Rights Act," IZA Discussion Papers 6639, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6639
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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. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, April.
    3. 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.
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    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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