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Unformatted text preview: Journal of Economic PerspectivesVolume 12, Number 2Spring 1998Pages 6390 Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender William A. Darity Jr. and Patrick L. Mason T here is substantial racial and gender disparity in the American economy. As we will demonstrate, discriminatory treatment within the labor market is a major cause of this inequality. The evidence is ubiquitous: careful research studies which estimate wage and employment regressions, help-wanted advertisements, audit and correspondence studies, and discrimination suits which are often reported by the news media. Yet, there appear to have been periods of substantial reductions in economic disparity and discrimination. For example, Do- nohue and Heckman (1991) provide evidence that racial discrimination declined during the interval 19651975. Gottschalk (1997) has produced statistical estimates that indicate that discrimination against black males dropped most sharply between 1965 and 1975, and that discrimination against women declined during the interval 19731994. But some unanswered questions remain. Why did the movement toward racial equality stagnate after the mid-1970s? What factors are most responsible for the remaining gender inequality? What is the role of the competitive process in elimination or reproduction of discrimination in employment? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the signal event associated with abrupt changes in the black-white earnings differential (Bound and Freeman, 1989; Card and Krue- ger, 1992; Donohue and Heckman, 1991; Freeman, 1973). 1 Along with other im- 1 Evidence on racial progress in economic status is contingent on the measure selected for consideration. While black-white earnings ratios rose for more than a decade following the passage of the Civil Rights Act, black-white family income ratios have remained in a stable, narrow band between 60 and 64 percent between 1960 and the present. The ratio actually declined below 60 percent during the 1982 reces- sion(Darity and Myers, forthcoming). Moreover, there has been little change in black-white per capita j William A. Darity is the Cary C. Boshamer Professor of Economics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Patrick L. Mason is Associate Professor of Economics, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. 64 Journal of Economic Perspectives portant pieces of federal legislation, the Civil Rights Act also played a major role in reducing discrimination against women (Leonard, 1989). Prior to passage of the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960s, racial exclusion and gender-typing of employment was blatant. The adverse effects of discriminatory practices on the life chances of African Americans, in particular, during that period have been well- documented (Wilson, 1980; Myers and Spriggs, 1997, pp. 3242; Lieberson, 1980)....
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