Study Finds Blacks Losing Jobs, Wages Despite Gains In Education, Gap In Wages Is Widening

African Americans are falling further behind whites in wages and employment rates, although the gap in education between blacks and whites has narrowed in recent decades, according to a study released today.

Author Jared Bernstein, of the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said the findings “deflate the argument that a decline in educational performance explains the eroded labor market status of blacks.” He found that “gaps in median years of education, dropout rates and high-school completion have been substantially closed by blacks, but wage and labor market declines have been severe, particularly for young blacks.”

According to Bernstein’s figures, the number of young adults with high school degrees was basically the same for both groups - about 80 percent in 1990. Whites once had a graduation rate twice as high as blacks.

Similarly, where black males in 1940 completed a median of 5.4 years of school compared to 8.7 for white males, the figures today are virtually identical. In 1993 black men aged 25 and over finished 12.6 years of schooling, compared to 12.8 years for white men of the same age group. The numbers for women were similar. Bernstein also found gaps in Scholastic Assessment Test scores and various other test scores had narrowed.

Based on these changes, the study said that wages of blacks could be expected to catch up to those of whites. But overall, Bernstein found that the ratio of hourly wages for both black men and women, compared to those of whites, dropped nearly 5 percentage points from 1979 to 1993.

The study also found that the percentage of all blacks in the population who were employed also dropped in relation to the percentage of all whites who were employed.

“Despite great strides toward educational convergence, black wage and employment trends have been generally negative relative to those of whites,” the study concluded. xxxx REASONS FOR GAP According to the report, the findings may result from three factors: Jobs in the high-paying manufacturing sector of the economy, where black employment was disproportionately high, are disappearing with workers shifting to lower-paying service jobs. Anti-discrimination enforcement has decreased over time, contributing to blacks’ difficulties in finding good jobs. Blacks have not closed the gap in college education to the extent they have in high school education, and many of the best jobs go only to those with advanced education.

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