UCLA Study Finds That There Is a Large Racial Gap in the Urban Wage Premium

Researchers who study cities have long documented an “urban wage premium,” whereby workers in denser, larger cities tend to have higher wage and salary incomes. But a new study is providing fresh insight into how growing population density in urban areas contributes to pay inequalities by race and gender.

The study, by Max Buchholz, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Michael Storper of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, shows that this wage premium primarily benefits White and male workers, with significantly less positive impacts for Black workers, and possibly none for Latino and female workers.

Dr. Buchholz found that the relationship between density and pay inequality became stronger when commute times to and from work also increased. Moreover, as urban areas get denser, commute times for Black workers increase relative to White workers. “This suggests that rising density doubly disadvantages Black workers with relatively lower wages and longer commutes,” Dr. Buchholz said.

The full study, “Does Urbanization Increase Inequality? Race, Gender, and the Urban Wage Premium,” was published on the website of the Journal of Urban Affairs. It may be accessed here.

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