Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors

64 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2003 Last revised: 7 Jul 2010

See all articles by Pedro Manuel Carneiro

Pedro Manuel Carneiro

University College London - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Dimitriy V. Masterov

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 2003

Abstract

This paper examines minority-white wage gaps. Neal and Johnson (1996) show that controlling for ability measured in the teenage years eliminates young adult wage gaps for all groups except for black males, for whom they eliminate 70% of the gap. Their study has been faulted because minority children and their parents may have pessimistic expectations about receiving fair rewards for their skills and so they may invest less in skill formation. If this is the case, discrimination may still affect wages, albeit indirectly, though it would appear that any racial differences in wages are due to differences in acquired traits. We find that gaps in ability across racial and ethnic groups open up at very early ages, long before child expectations are likely to become established. These gaps widen with age and schooling for Blacks, but not for Hispanics which indicates that poor schools and neighborhoods cannot be the principal factors affecting the slow black test score growth rate. Test scores depend on schooling attained at the time of the test. Adjusting for racial and ethnic differences in schooling attainment at the age the test is taken reduces the power of measured ability to shrink wage gaps for blacks, but not for other minorities. The evidence from expectations data are mixed. Although all groups are quite optimistic about future schooling outcomes, minority parents and children have more pessimistic expectations about child schooling relative to white children and their parents when their children are young. At later ages, expectations are more uniform across racial and ethnic groups. However, we also present some evidence that expectations data are unreliable and ambiguous. We also document the presence of disparities in noncognitive traits across racial and ethnic groups. These characteristics have been shown elsewhere to be important for explaining the labor market outcomes of adults. This evidence points to the importance of early (preschool) family factors and environments in explaining both cognitive and noncognitive ability differentials by ethnicity and race. Policies that foster both types of ability are far more likely to be effective in promoting racial and ethnic equality for most groups than are additional civil rights and affirmative action policies targeted at the workplace.

Suggested Citation

Carneiro, Pedro Manuel and Heckman, James J. and Masterov, Dimitriy V., Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors (November 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w10068. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=463435

Pedro Manuel Carneiro

University College London - Department of Economics ( email )

Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

James J. Heckman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-0634 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

American Bar Foundation

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Dimitriy V. Masterov

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Center for Social Program Evaluation
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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