NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The New Promised Land: Black-White Convergence in the American South, 1960-2000

Jacob L. Vigdor

NBER Working Paper No. 12143
Issued in April 2006
NBER Program(s):   ED   LS

The black-white earnings gap has historically been larger in the South than in other regions of the United States. Since 1970, however, the male annual earnings gap outside the South has increased – dramatically, when the analysis factors in non-participants – while the gap within the South has narrowed, to the point where 2000 Census figures indicate significantly lower racial inequality in the South. Three proposed explanations for this trend focus on changing patterns of selective migration, labor market trends including reduced discrimination and the decline of manufacturing employment, and reductions in school segregation and school resource disparities in the South relative to the North. Evidence suggests that selective migration can explain about 40% of the South’s relative advance, and virtually all of the relative advance after 1980. Earlier declines can be attributed in large part to reduced industrial segregation and other labor market advances in the South. Relative improvements in school quality for Southern blacks explain at most 20% of the overall trend.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12143

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