NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?

Derek Neal

NBER Working Paper No. 11090
Issued in January 2005
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

All data sources indicate that black-white skill gaps diminished over most of the 20th century, but black-white skill gaps as measured by test scores among youth and educational attainment among young adults have remained constant or increased in absolute value since the late 1980s. I examine the potential importance of discrimination against skilled black workers, changes in black family structures, changes in black household incomes, black-white differences in parenting norms, and education policy as factors that may contribute to the recent stability of black-white skill gaps. Absent changes in public policy or the economy that facilitate investment in black children, best case scenarios suggest that even approximate black-white skill parity is not possible before 2050, and equally plausible scenarios imply that the black-white skill gap will remain quite significant throughout the 21st century.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w11090

Published: “Why Has Black-White Skill Convergence Stopped?” Handbook of Economics of Education, edited by Eric Hanushek and Finis Welch, Elsiver. 2006

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