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Upgraded to Bad Jobs: Low-Wage Black Women's Relative Status since 1970

Authors

  • Enobong Hannah Branch,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Massachusetts, Amherst
    • Direct all correspondence to Enobong Hannah Branch, Department of Sociology, UMass-Amherst, 200 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003; e-mail: ebranch@soc.umass.edu, or to Caroline Hanley, Department of Sociology, College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795; e-mail: cehanl@wm.edu

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  • Caroline Hanley

    Corresponding author
    1. College of William & Mary
    • Direct all correspondence to Enobong Hannah Branch, Department of Sociology, UMass-Amherst, 200 Hicks Way, Amherst, MA 01003; e-mail: ebranch@soc.umass.edu, or to Caroline Hanley, Department of Sociology, College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795; e-mail: cehanl@wm.edu

    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Labor market changes complicate the analysis of black women's status relative to white women because education, occupational attainment, and race–gender are now less predictive of earnings. Low-wage black women's relative status has improved somewhat from 1970 to 2000, contrary to the well-documented decrease in relative status reported for all black women wage earners since 1980, but their dramatic occupational upgrading was not responsible for the trend. White-collar occupational positions formerly responsible for white women's relative earnings advantage no longer deliver that reward, as restructuring has produced a proliferation of bad jobs across occupational groups. This study argues that increasing exposure to precarious work is crucial to understanding changes in low-wage black women's relative economic status since 1970.

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