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Prejudice and The Economics of Discrimination

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  • Kerwin Kofi Charles
  • Jonathan Guryan

Abstract

This paper tests the predictions about the relationship between racial prejudice and racial wage gaps from Becker's (1957) seminal work on employer discrimination - something which has not previously been done in the large economics discrimination literature. Using rich data on racial prejudice from the General Social Survey, we find strong support for all of the key predictions from Becker about the relationship between prejudice and racial wage gaps. In particular, we show that, relative to white wages, black wages: (a) vary negatively with a measure of the prejudice of the "marginal" white in a state; (b) vary negatively with the prejudice in the lower tail of the prejudice distribution, but are unaffected by the prejudice of the most prejudiced persons in a state; and (c) vary negatively with the fraction of a state that is black. We show that these results are robust to a variety of extensions, including directly controlling for racial skill quality differences and instrumental variables estimates. We present some initial evidence to show that racial wage gaps are larger the more racially integrated is a state's workforce, also as Becker's model predicts. The paper also briefly discusses familiar criticisms and extensions of the standard Becker model, including an argument of our own which, like some recent work, shows that the model's main predictions can be shown theoretically to survive the effects of long run competition.

Suggested Citation

  • Kerwin Kofi Charles & Jonathan Guryan, 2007. "Prejudice and The Economics of Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 13661, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13661
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Roland G. Fryer & Steven D. Levitt, 2004. "The Causes and Consequences of Distinctively Black Names," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 767-805.
    2. Oettinger, Gerald S, 1996. "Statistical Discrimination and the Early Career Evolution of the Black-White Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 52-78, January.
    3. Neal, Derek A & Johnson, William R, 1996. "The Role of Premarket Factors in Black-White Wage Differences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 869-895, October.
    4. Clark Nardinelli & Curtis Simon, 1990. "Customer Racial Discrimination in the Market for Memorabilia: The Case of Baseball," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 575-595.
    5. James J. Heckman, 1998. "Detecting Discrimination," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 101-116, Spring.
    6. 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.
    7. Matthew S. Goldberg, 1982. "Discrimination, Nepotism, and Long-Run Wage Differentials," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 97(2), pages 307-319.
    8. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-661, September.
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    Cited by:

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    3. Lori Beaman & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande & Petia Topalova, 2009. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1497-1540.
    4. Mergoupis, Thanos & Nandeibam, Shasikanta, 2014. "Wage discrimination and population composition in the long run," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 122(3), pages 445-451.
    5. Kevin Lang & Jee-Yeon K. Lehmann, 2012. "Racial Discrimination in the Labor Market: Theory and Empirics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 959-1006, December.
    6. Castillo, Marco & Petrie, Ragan, 2010. "Discrimination in the lab: Does information trump appearance?," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 50-59, January.
    7. Ross Levine & Alexey Levkov & Yona Rubinstein, 2008. "Racial Discrimination and Competition," NBER Working Papers 14273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Harbaugh, Rick & To, Ted, 2014. "Opportunistic discrimination," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 192-204.
    9. Bobek Vito & Maček Anita & Bradler Sarah & Horvat Tatjana, 2018. "How to Reduce Discrimination in the Workplace: The Case of Austria and Taiwan (R.O.C.)," Naše gospodarstvo/Our economy, Sciendo, vol. 64(3), pages 12-22, September.
    10. Oscar Molina Tejerina & Sergio Bobka Calcina, 2016. "Comercio internacional y brechas salariales no explicadas por género: Evidencia para el sector agrícola en Bolivia," Investigación & Desarrollo 0416, Universidad Privada Boliviana, revised Jun 2016.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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