Race and Gender Pay Differentials

Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn

NBER Working Paper No. 4120
Issued in July 1992
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

In this paper we review research findings from the 1980s and early 1990s on race and gender pay gaps. In addition. we present some evidence from the Current Population Surveys (1972, 1982 and 1989) regarding the impact of shifts in the industrial composition of employment and in interindustry wage differentials on these gaps. The gender gap in pay was stable in the 1970s but fell steadily in the 1980s; the opposite patterns were observed for black-white wage differentials--a trend towards convergence in the 1970s and stability in the 1980s. Understanding these new trends comprised the unifying theme of our review. Existing studies suggest that changes in wage structure. changing relative skill levels by race and sex. and. possibly. changes in the implementation of government policies all played a role in producing the observed outcomes. although impacts were sometimes countervailing. Our own results indicate that total industry effects (representation plus coefficient effects) had little impact on the male-female pay gap during the 1970s. but accounted for a small portion of the closing of the male-female pay gap for both blacks and for whites in the 1980s. In contrast, we found no evidence that total industry effects contributed to black-white wage trends in either period.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w4120

Published: "Race and Gender Pay Differentials" in Research Frontiers in Industrial Relations, edited by David Lewin, Olivia Mitchell and Peter Sherer, Madison, W I: Industrial Relations Research Association, 1992

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