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School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment

  • David Card
  • Alan B. Krueger

The average wage differential between black and white men fell from 40 percent in 1960 to 25 percent in 1980. Much of this convergence is attributable to a relative increase in the rate of return to schooling among black workers. It is widely argued that the growth in the relative return to black education reflects the dramatic improvements in the quality of black schooling over the past century. To test this hypothesis we have assembled data on three aspects of school quality -- pupil teacher ratios. annual teacher pay. and term length for black and white schools in 18 segregated states from 1915 to 1966. The school quality data are linked to estimated rates of return to education for Southern-born men from different cohorts and states. measured in 1960. 1970. and 1980. Improvements in the relative quality of black schools explain 20 percent of the narrowing of the black-white earnings gap between 1960 and 1980.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3713.

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Date of creation: May 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 107, no. 1, February 1992, p. 151- 200
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3713
Note: LS
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1990. "Does School Quality Matter? Returns to Education and the Characteristics of Public Schools in the United States," Working Papers 645, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Charles Brown, 1981. "The Federal Attack on Labor Market Discrimination: The Mouse that Roared?," NBER Working Papers 0669, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Orley Ashenfelter, 1969. "Change in Labor Market Discrimination Over Time," Working Papers 387, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Richard B. Freeman, 1973. "Changes in the Labor Market for Black Americans, 1948-72," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(1), pages 67-132.
  5. Smith, James P, 1984. "Race and Human Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 685-98, September.
  6. Greg J. Duncan & Saul D. Hoffman, 1983. "A New Look at the Causes of the Improved Economic Status of Black Workers," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(2), pages 268-282.
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