Research Finds That the Racial Earnings Gap for Men Has Returned to 1950s Level

Professor Kerwin Charles
Professor Kerwin Charles

Scholars from Duke University and the University of Chicago have authored a paper that shows the overall median earning gap between Black and White men has returned to the level that existed in the 1950s. The authors, Patrick Bayer, a professor of economics at Duke University, and Kerwin K. Charles, the Edwin and Betty L. Bergman Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, found that in 1960, 19 percent of Black men were not working. By 2014, 35 percent of Black men were not employed. This includes Black men who are unemployed, not employed and not looking for work, or incarcerated in jail.

The paper also shows that the earning gap between Black men with a college education and Black men with a low level of education is at an all-time high.

Professor Bayer explains that the changing economy has been difficult for all workers with less than a high school education but has been particularly devastating for Black men. Bayer states that “in essence, the economic benefits that should have come from the substantial gains in education for Black men over the past 75 years have been completely undone by the changing economy, which exacts an ever steeper price for the differences that still remain.”

The paper, “Divergent Paths: Structural Change, Economic Rank, and the Evolution of Black-White Earnings Differences, 1940-2014,” was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It may be accessed here.

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