African American Women Workers in the Postindustrial Period

The Role of Education in Evaluating Racial Wage Parity among Women

Authored by: Katrinell M. Davis

The Ashgate Research Companion to Black Sociology

Print publication date:  September  2015
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472456762
eBook ISBN: 9781315612775
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044024


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Over the past fifty years substantial changes in the demographic characteristics of women in the workforce have had a significant impact on their relative earnings. Black women’s earnings first began to increase, relative to similarly situated White women, in the 1950s (King 1993; Sokoloff 1992; Blau and Beller 1992). One of the factors that contributed to this improvement is the steady increases in Black women workers’ average level of education attainment between 1940 and 1980 (Sokoloff 1992; Blau and Beller 1992). While White women’s educational attainment improved from 8.8 years to 12.5 years between 1940 and 1980, Black women’s average educational attainment doubled from 6.2 years to 12 years during this time (King 1993: 1109). These trends, in addition to other factors including declining fertility rates (Bianchi 1995), led to shifts in wage convergence among white and Black women workers by the mid- to late 1970s (King 1995; Sokoloff 1992). Relative income gains among White and Black women have also been attributed to Black women’s occupational upgrades (Blau and Beller 1992; Goldin 1990) and anti-discrimination laws that helped them gain access to public sector and professional jobs (Grodsky and Pager 2001; Darity and Mason 1998; Blau and Beller 1994).

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