Black workers have stopped advancing on wages. Is it racism?

Think of information technology, which offers some of the highest paying jobs in the country. African Americans earn about one out of 10 bachelor’s degrees in computer science nationwide. In contrast, they represent only 2.6 people out of 100 IT professionals in the region around San Francisco, including Silicon Valley.

Even with the credentials that many African Americans have in the field, Dr. Spriggs said in an interview, “Silicon Valley says, ‘Yeah, but they’re not qualified. “

But despite all the evidence for racial disparities, many economists say employers’ racial biases cannot fully explain what happens in the workplace. The idea that discrimination alone determined the fate of black workers in the workplace – their jobs and their wages – does not match how American society has changed over the past half century.

Put simply, if racism is the reason black workers are lagging behind, said Erik Hurst, professor of economics at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, how come they made such progress after World War II, significantly closing the wage gap with whites while segregation and other explicit barriers were still prevalent? And why has this progress stopped even though racial animosity, by various measures, has diminished over the years?

The share of whites approving of interracial marriage, for example, rose to 87% in 2013, the last time Gallup asked the question, from 48% in 1965. The share of whites who said they would vote for a candidate black in the presidential election rose to 96% in 2020 from 77% in 1983 and 38% in 1958. Answers to many other questions asked by the General Social Survey, a long-standing academic effort to understand the views of Americans , suggest that racial prejudice has diminished in recent decades. .

Most of the gains African Americans made in the workplace were made between the 1940s and 1970s, when racial prejudice was much more prevalent in society. Then they got stuck.

“There was a convergence between blacks and whites, but then it stopped,” said Dr Hurst, who is also deputy director of the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics, which sponsors a podcast I host. “The question is why. “

About Mark A. Tomlin

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