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April 1995, Vol. 118, No. 4
B lack men earned less, on average, in 1989 ($14,182) than in 1979 ($14,619), while the average earnings of white men increased (from $20,564 to $21,361) according to data from the Census Bureau.1 In addition, previous studies show that black men lost more ground relative to white men than did black women during the 1980's.2 This article examines whether a shift in the distribution of black men and white men across regions could have significantly contributed to widening the earnings gap between the two groups, or whether within-region shifts in industry employment and earnings contributed to the earnings divergence.
Many studies have documented and analyzed the black-white earnings gap in the United States. William A. Darity, Jr. and Samuel L. Myers, Jr. found that the earnings gap between black and white heads of household widened by 5 percent between 1976 and 1985.3 They also found, that if similarly endowed and situated family heads of households had been treated equally, the gap would have actually have narrowed by 13 percent.
Another study, by Francine D. Blau and Andrea H. Beller, found that although relative hourly wages increased for black men, these gains were counterbalanced by decreased periods of annual work time.4 Blau and Beller showed that an evening-out of earnings across work experience groups increased the wages of older black men relative to younger black men. This was accompanied by growth in earnings differentials between young black men and young white men with similar characteristics.
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1 Authors' calculations from a U.S. Bureau of the Census, Public Use Microdata Samples, 1980 and 1990. Average real earnings are in 1982-84 dollars.
2 Lee Badgett and Rhonda M. Williams, "The Changing Contours of Discrimination: Race, Gender, and Structural Economic Change," in M. Bernstein and D. Adler, eds. , Understanding American Economic Decline (Cambridge, Cambridge university Press, 1994); and Francine Blau and Andrea H. Beller, "Black-White Earnings Over the 1970's and 1980's: Gender Differences in Trends," Review of Economic and Statistics, May 1992, pp. 276-86.
3 William A. Darity, Jr. and Samuel L. Myers, Jr., "Racial Earnings Inequality and Family Structure," Mimeograph (University of Minnesota, 1993).
4 Blau and Beller, "Black-White Earnings," May 1992.
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