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Source: EdLabs at Harvard University
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. Fryer, Roland G. Jr.
Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination
Working Paper, EdLabs & Department of Economics, Harvard University, June 18, 2010.
Cohort(s): Children of the NLSY79, NLSY79, NLSY97
Publisher: EdLabs at Harvard University
Keyword(s): Achievement; Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT); Discrimination, Racial/Ethnic; Genetics; Home Observation for Measurement of Environment (HOME); National Education Longitudinal Survey (NELS); Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT- Math); Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT- Reading); Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT); Racial Differences; Racial Equality/Inequality; Racial Studies

Permission to reprint the abstract has not been received from the publisher.

Racial inequality is an American tradition. Relative to whites, blacks earn twenty-four percent less, live five fewer years, and are six times more likely to be incarcerated on a given day. Hispanics earn twenty-five percent less than whites and are three times more likely to be incarcerated. At the end of the 1990s, there were one-third more black men under the jurisdiction of the corrections system than there were enrolled in colleges or universities (Ziedenberg and Schiraldi, 2002). While the majority of barometers of economic and social progress have increased substantially since the passing of the civil rights act, large disparities between racial groups have been and continue to be an everyday part of American life.

Understanding the causes of current racial inequality is a subject of intense debate. A wide variety of explanations have been put forth, which range from genetics (Jensen, 1973; Rushton, 1995) to personal and institutional discrimination (Darity and Mason, 1998; Pager, 2007; Krieger and Sidney, 1996) to the cultural backwardness of minority groups (Reuter, 1945; Shukla, 1971). Renowned sociologist William Julius Wilson argues that a potent interaction between poverty and racial discrimination can explain current disparities (Wilson, 2010).

Decomposing the share of inequality attributable to these explanations is exceedingly difficult, as experiments (field, quasi-, or natural) or other means of credible identification are rarely available. Even in cases where experiments are used (i.e., audit studies), it is unclear precisely what is being measured (Heckman, 1998). The lack of success in convincingly identifying root causes of racial inequality has often reduced the debate to a competition of "name that residual" -- arbitrarily assigning identity to unexplained differences between racial groups in economic outcomes after accounting for a set of confounding factors. The residuals are often interpreted as "discrimination," "culture," "genetics," and so on. Gaining a better understanding of the root causes of racial inequality is of tremendous importance for social policy, and the purpose of this chapter.

Bibliography Citation
Fryer, Roland G. Jr. "Racial Inequality in the 21st Century: The Declining Significance of Discrimination." Working Paper, EdLabs & Department of Economics, Harvard University, June 18, 2010.