What Went Wrong? The Erosion of Relative Earnings and Employment among Young Black Men in the 1980s

This paper shows a widening in black-white earnings and employment gaps among young men from the mid-1970s through the 1980s. Earnings gaps increased most among college graduates and in the Midwest, while gaps in employment-population rates grew most among dropouts. We attribute the differential widening to shifts in demand for subgroups due to shifting industry and regional employment, the falling real minimum wage and deunionization, the growing supply of black to white workers that was marked among college graduates, and to increased crime among dropouts. The different factors affecting subgroups highlight the economic diversity of black Americans.