NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940-2014

Patrick Bayer, Kerwin Kofi Charles

NBER Working Paper No. 22797
Issued in November 2016
NBER Program(s):   DAE   ED   LE   LS   PE   PR

Studying working and non-working men, we find that, after closing substantially from 1940 to the mid-1970s, the median black-white earnings gap has since returned to its 1950 level, while the positional rank the median black man would hold in the white distribution has remained little changed since 1940. By contrast, higher quantile black men have experienced substantial gains in both relative earnings levels and their positional rank in the white earnings distribution. Using a new decomposition method that extends existing approaches to account for non-participation, we show that the gains of black men at higher quantiles have been driven primarily by positional gains within education level due to forces like improved access to quality schools and declining occupational exclusion. At the median and below, strong racial convergence in educational attainment has been counteracted by the rising returns to education in the labor market, which have disproportionately disadvantaged the shrinking but still substantial share of blacks with lower education.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the January 2017 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22797

 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us