Racial Discrimination Keeps Popping Up as the Likely Culprit

. . . Behind the Low Wages of Black Workers

Whiter jobs, higher wages: Occupational segregation and the lower wages of black men

In 2008, the year of the election of the nation’s first black president, black men earned only 71% of what white men earned. In this report we examine how occupational segregation based on race is related to this disparity. We find that even after taking educational attainment into account, black men are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-wage jobs. Neither hard skills, soft skills, nor black men’s occupational interests provide convincing explanations for black male sorting into low-wage occupations.

The most plausible explanation we find is that labor market discrimination excludes many black men from high- wage jobs. Therefore, effectively combating employment discrimination will contribute significantly to closing the racial earnings gap and improving the socioeconomic position of black families and black communities.

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The low wages of black immigrants: Wage penalties for U.S.-born and foreign-born black workers

The popular discussion of black immigrants often exaggerates their achievements and denigrates U.S.-born blacks. One regularly hears asked, “Why do black immigrants do better than native blacks?” (Coates 2009). In these discussions, black immigrants usually are presented as hard working, valuing education, entrepreneurial, and family-oriented. U.S.-born blacks are often presented as lacking all of these characteristics, and sometimes even described as carrying “victimhood baggage” (Coates 2009; Marshall 2006). Many such discussions are driven by anecdotes, and even when these issues are explored using actual data, rarely are comparisons based on more than one measure; rarer still is there a comparison of how black immigrants fare in comparison with native whites.

This report aims to deepen the public discussion by conducting a broader, more careful examination of the socio-economic standing of black immigrants relative to U.S.-born blacks and whites.

[From the Conclusion]

The fact that black immigrant groups—who are said to be hardworking, valuing education, entrepreneurial, and family-oriented—do relatively poorly in finding work, obtaining a good wage, and staying out of poverty suggests that the playing field is not as level as popularly believed. The fact that all of these groups are black may contribute to their hardships in the United States.

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