The Origin and Persistence of Black-White Differences in Women's Labor Force Participation
Black women were more likely than white women to participate in the labor force from 1870 until at least 1980 and to hold jobs in agriculture or manufacturing. Differences in observables cannot account for most of this racial gap in labor force participation for the 100 years after Emancipation. The unexplained racial gap may be due to racial differences in stigma associated with women's work, which Goldin (1977) suggested could be traced to cultural norms rooted in slavery. In both nineteenth and twentieth century data, we find evidence of inter-generation transmission of labor force participation from mother to daughter, which is consistent with the role of cultural norms.
We thank Nayana Bose, Francisco Haimovich, Mike Moody and Greg Niemesh for able research assistance. Members of the KALER group at UCLA provided useful comments on our initial draft.