The improving economic status of black Americans

by James P. Smith

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Blacks are becoming less distinguishable from whites in market earnings. Relative to white males, black male earnings have gradually increased, and the rise during the 1960s and early 1970s is even larger than observed earlier. By 1975 almost complete racial parity of wages among women had been achieved. This advance in relative income is due mainly to converging educational distributions by race and a narrowing in wage differentials between regions. Affirmative action pressures apparently had little impact on male income ratios but may have contributed to the improvement among black women. The direct effect of migration was a very minor factor in this recent improvement among blacks. Changes in other aspects of market work including choice of full-time work, the decline of the domestic service occupations, and sample censoring all contributed to the observed rise in the relative wage of black women.

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