Black/White Male Earnings and Employment


by James P. Smith, Finis Welch


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Uses Census samples to examine relative male earnings by race. In 1959, employed black men averaged 57 percent of the earnings of employed white men. This had increased to 64 percent by 1969, during low and declining unemployment. The improvement over the decade was universally shared across schooling and experience groups, although the young and better educated fared best. Occupational distributions were also converging. Because blacks seem more vulnerable to business cycle changes, weekly earnings are emphasized, rather than annual earnings that reflect differences in weeks worked. Nonlabor and self-employment income are ignored. Stronger gains were registered in the South and Midwest than the Northeast and West, and in private rather than governmental employment. While the effect of affirmative action was not directly studied, the largest gains occurred in the industries least vulnerable to federal pressure. There was wider variance in both weekly and annual earnings among blacks than among whites.

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