Working Papers

2004-02 | January 2004


The Improving Relative Status of Black Men


Using data from the Current Population Survey, we examine recent trends in the relative economic status of black men. Our findings point to gains in the relative wages of black men (compared to whites) during the 1990s, especially among younger workers. In 1989, the average black male worker (experienced or not) earned about 69 percent as much per week as the average white male worker. In 2001, the average younger black worker was earning about 86 percent as much as an equally experienced white male; black males at all experience levels earned 72 percent as much as the average white in 2001. Greater occupational diversity and a reduction in unobserved skill differences and/or labor market discrimination explain much of the trend. For both younger and older workers, general wage inequality tempered the rate of wage convergence between blacks and whites during the 1990s, although the effects were less pronounced than during the 1980s.

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