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Blacks, Hispanics and White Ethnic Groups: Are Blacks Uniquely Disadvantaged?

Publication Abstract

Farley, Reynolds. 1990. "Blacks, Hispanics and White Ethnic Groups: Are Blacks Uniquely Disadvantaged?" The American Economic Review, 80(2): 237-41.

In A Common Destiny, a study of the status of black Americans, the National Academy of Science stated that despite substantial progress, American blacks remained far behind whites on social and economic indicators. This paper attempts to determine whether this is an oversimplification by comparing the progress of blacks with that of Hispanics, other racial minorities and white ethnic groups using data from the 1980 Census. After examining the characteristics of 50 racial-ethnic groups, the author concludes that the Academy's statement would have been no different had they considered an array of racial and ethnic groups. He finds that in 1980 Vietnamese and Puerto Ricans were more impoverished than blacks and, in terms of per capita income, Mexicans and American Natives were similar to blacks. There was considerable variation in the status of the 37 white ethnic groups and Eastern European groups had exceptionally high incomes. However, all of the white ethnic groups were more prosperous than blacks. The only white group whose educational attainment or occupational status approximated that of blacks were people who identified themselves as white by race but American Indian by ancestry. When the analysis focused on earnings of native born men, blacks were the most disadvantaged with earnings below those of Native Americans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans. Blacks and men from these three groups had characteristics associated with low earnings. In addition, blacks, other racial minorities (including Asians), and Hispanic groups had rates of return that were lower than those of white ethnic groups.

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