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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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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
Date of revision:
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. 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.
  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 1603-43, December.
  3. Goldin, Claudia & Margo, Robert A, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34, February.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Smith, James P, 1984. "Race and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 685-98, September.
  7. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, July.
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