The Competitive Dynamics of Racial Exclusion: Employment Segregation in the South, 1900-1950
NBER Historical Working Paper No. 14
Using data from the 1900, 1910, 1940, and 1950 census public use samples, this paper examines the determinants of racial differences in employment (occupation and industry) in the South during the first half of the twentieth century. Had racial differences in the quantity and quality of schooling been smaller, more blacks would have entered non-farm occupations and industries in the South, thereby reducing the extent of racial segregation in employment and resulting in higher black-to-white earnings ratios. But I also find that black men were underrepresented in the growth of non-farm employment in the South before World War Two and that this increase in employment segregation cannot be explained by racial differences in schooling. Increases in non-farm labor demand caused an outflow of black labor from southern agriculture during the 1940s, and this outflow was associated with a rise in the earnings ratio. Yet despite the effects of the war, employment segregation in the south was higher in 1950 than at the turn of the century.