In a New York Times column published on June 25, the Times’ David Leonhardt discusses research by Yale SOM Dean Kerwin K. Charles and co-author Patrick Bayer that finds the Black-white wage gap is as large today as it was in 1950.
Conventional measures of the difference in earnings between Black and white Americans show a narrowing in the gap since 1960. But these figures only take into account active workers. Over the same period, the proportion of non-working adults increased.
Charles and Bayer used census data to look at the relative earnings of all Black and white men between 1940 and 2014. Their finding is that the gap narrowed between 1950 and 1980 but ballooned again in recent decades, as trends that worked against low-wage earners disproportionately affected Black men.
Leonhardt summed up his conclusions based on the research: “This history also points to some of the likely solutions for closing the racial wage gap. An end to mass incarceration would help. So would policies that attempt to reverse decades of government-encouraged racism—especially in housing. But it’s possible that nothing would have a bigger impact than policies that lifted the pay of all working-class families, across races.”