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From Servants to Secretaries: The Occupations of African-American Women, 1940-1980

38 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2008  

William A. Sundstrom

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department

Date Written: May 2000

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Sundstrom, William A., From Servants to Secretaries: The Occupations of African-American Women, 1940-1980 (May 2000). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1104056 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1104056

William A. Sundstrom (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - Leavey School of Business - Economics Department ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA California 95053
United States
408-554-4341 (Phone)
408-554-2331 (Fax)

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