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Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?

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  • Derek Neal

Abstract

All data sources indicate that black-white skill gaps diminished over most of the 20th century, but black-white skill gaps as measured by test scores among youth and educational attainment among young adults have remained constant or increased in absolute value since the late 1980s. I examine the potential importance of discrimination against skilled black workers, changes in black family structures, changes in black household incomes, black-white differences in parenting norms, and education policy as factors that may contribute to the recent stability of black-white skill gaps. Absent changes in public policy or the economy that facilitate investment in black children, best case scenarios suggest that even approximate black-white skill parity is not possible before 2050, and equally plausible scenarios imply that the black-white skill gap will remain quite significant throughout the 21st century.

Suggested Citation

  • Derek Neal, 2005. "Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?," NBER Working Papers 11090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11090
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    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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