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The Wage Gains of African-American Women in the 1940s

  • Martha J. Bailey
  • William J. Collins

The weekly wage gap between black and white female workers narrowed by 15 percentage points during the 1940s. We employ a semi-parametric technique to decompose changes in the distribution of wages. We find that changes in worker characteristics (such as education, occupation and industry, and region of residence) can account for a significant portion of wage convergence between black and white women, but that changes in the wage structure, including large black-specific gains within regions, occupations, industries, and educational groups, made the largest contributions. The single most important contributing factor to the observed convergence was a sharp increase in the relative wages of service workers (where black workers were heavily concentrated) even as black women moved out of domestic service jobs.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w10621.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10621.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Publication status: published as Bailey, Martha J. & Collins, William J., 2006. "The Wage Gains of African-American Women in the 1940s," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(03), pages 737-777, September.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10621
Note: DAE LS
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
  2. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  3. John J. Donohue III & James J. Heckman & Petra E. Todd, 2002. "The Schooling of Southern Blacks: The Roles of Legal Activism and Private Philanthropy, 1910–1960," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 225-268.
  4. John DiNardo & Nicole M. Fortin & Thomas Lemieux, 1995. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," NBER Working Papers 5093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. William J. Collins, 2003. "The Labor Market Impact of State-Level Anti-Discrimination Laws, 1940–1960," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(2), pages 244-272, January.
  6. James S. Cunningham & Nadja Zalokar, 1992. "The economic progress of black women, 1940û1980: Occupational distribution and relative wages," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 45(3), pages 540-555, April.
  7. William J. Collins, 2003. "The labor market impact of state-level anti-discrimination laws, 1940-1960," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 56(2), pages 244-272, January.
  8. 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 1603-43, December.
  9. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  10. Sundstrom, William A., 1994. "The Color Line: Racial Norms and Discrimination in Urban Labor Markets, 1910–1950," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 382-396, June.
  11. James S. Cunningham & Nadja Zalokar, 1992. "The Economic Progress of Black Women, 1940–1980: Occupational Distribution and Relative Wages," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 45(3), pages 540-555, April.
  12. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Robert A. Margo, 1990. "Race and Schooling in the South, 1880-1950: An Economic History," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number marg90-1, October.
  14. Blau, Francine D & Beller, Andrea H, 1992. "Black-White Earnings over the 1970s and 1980s: Gender Differences in Trends," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 276-86, May.
  15. Smith, James P, 1984. "Race and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 685-98, September.
  16. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-56, September.
  17. Robert A. Margo, 1995. "Explaining Black-White Wage Convergence, 1940–1950," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 470-481, April.
  18. Collins, William J., 2000. "African-American Economic Mobility in the 1940s: A Portrait from the Palmer Survey," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(03), pages 756-781, September.
  19. Robert A. Margo, 1995. "Explaining black-white wage convergence, 1940û1950," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(3), pages 470-481, April.
  20. Maloney, Thomas N., 1994. "Wage Compression and Wage Inequality Between Black and White Males in the United States, 1940–1960," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(02), pages 358-381, June.
  21. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, October.
  22. William J. Collins, 2001. "Race, Roosevelt, and Wartime Production: Fair Employment in World War II Labor Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 272-286, March.
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