From Servants to Secretaries: The Occupations of African-American Women, 1940-1980
William A. Sundstrom
Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department
This paper examines changes in the occupations of African-American women during the period 1940-1980 using U.S. Census samples, with an emphasis on the breakthrough of black women into clerical work. In contrast with some previous studies, my results indicate that increased educational attainment played a significant role in opening black opportunities for clerical jobs. But changes in education still explain less than half of the overall increase in probability of a clerical job, suggesting that declining discrimination may also have been important. Employing an illustrative tipping model of endogenous discrimination, the paper argues that a range of historical forces might have tipped the labor market toward an equilibrium with less employment discrimination. Some preliminary evidence suggests a potential role for public employment and the educational qualifications of the black labor pool.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38