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An Anatomy Of Racial and Ethnic Trends in Male Earnings in the U.S


  • Note: We thank referees of this journal, Peter McHenry, Derek Neal, Dennis Sullivan, and seminar participants for helpful comments.


Progress in narrowing black–white earnings differences has been far from continuous, with some of the apparent progress resulting from labor force withdrawal among lower-skilled African Americans. This paper documents racial and ethnic differences in male earnings from 1950 through 2010 using data from the decennial census and American Community Surveys. Emphasis is given to annual rather than weekly or hourly earnings. We take a quantile approach, providing evidence on medians and other percentiles of the distribution. Treatment of imputed earnings greatly affects measured outcomes. Hispanic men have exhibited earnings growth similar to white men over several decades. Black men have been left behind economically due in large part to increased joblessness, a process exacerbated by weak labor market conditions. By 2010, joblessness had risen to over 40 percent and the median black–white earnings gap was the largest in at least 60 years.