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The Measured Black-White Wage Gap Among Women is Too Small


  • Derek Neal


Taken as a whole, the literature on black-white wage inequality suggests that racial gaps in potential wages are much larger among men than women, and further that one can accurately assess black-white gaps in potential wages among women without accounting for black-white differences in patterns of female labor supply. This paper challenges both pieces of this conventional wisdom. I provide several estimates of the black-white gap in potential wages for the year 1990 using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), a panel data set that includes persons born between 1957 and 1964. I exploit data on wages and income sources for years before and after 1990 to develop imputation methods that allow me to adjust measures of the black-white wage gap among women for racial differences in selection patterns. Among young adult employed women in 1990, the Census, Current Population Surveys, and NLSY data yield median log wage gaps of -.11, -16, and -.18 respectively. Based on several different imputation procedures, I estimate that the median black-white gap in log potential wages among women in the NLSY is approximately -.25.

Suggested Citation

  • Derek Neal, 2002. "The Measured Black-White Wage Gap Among Women is Too Small," NBER Working Papers 9133, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9133
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg & Michael M. Knetter, 1997. "Goods Prices and Exchange Rates: What Have We Learned?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1243-1272, September.
    2. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 1992. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 151-200.
    3. Umbeck, John, 1980. "Shipping the Good Apples Out: Some Ambiguities in the Interpretation of "Fixed Charge"," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 199-208, February.
    4. 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.
    5. Derek Neal, 2001. "The Economics of Family Structure," NBER Working Papers 8519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
    7. Kimberly Bayard & Judith Hellerstein & David Neumark & Kenneth R. Troske, 1999. "Why Are Racial And Ethnic Wage Gaps Larger For Men Than For Women? Exploring The Role Of Segregation Using The New Worker-Establishment Characteristics Database," Labor and Demography 9902002, EconWPA.
    8. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-564, June.
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    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination


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