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date: 24 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article documents and explores black–white differences in US women’s labor force participation, occupations, and wages from 1940 to 2014. It draws on closely related research on selection into the labor force, discrimination, and prelabor market characteristics, such as test scores, that are strongly associated with subsequent labor market outcomes. Both black and white women significantly increased their labor force participation in this period, with white women catching up to black women by 1990. Black–white differences in occupational and wage distributions were large circa 1940; they have narrowed significantly since then as black women’s relative outcomes improved. Following a period of rapid convergence, the racial wage gap for women widened after 1980 in census data. Differences in human capital, which are rooted in the history of racial discrimination, are an empirically important underpinning of the black–white wage gap throughout the period studied.

Keywords: inequality, discrimination, gender gap, wages, race, history

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