MSU Researchers Say Racial Wage Gap Narrrows in the South, Widens in the North

A shift away from manufacturing jobs and greater emphasis on education could be to blame for the racial disparities in earnings.

A hand pulls a $20 bill out of a wallet

A new report conducted by Michigan State University economists Charles Ballard and John H. Goddeeris has exposed some surprising and noteworthy trends in America’s racial wage gap. Starting in the 1970s, former Confederate states have seen the earnings gap between white and Black workers shrink, while elsewhere that gap has been exacerbated. 

Listen by clicking the audio player above: Why is the racial wage gap getting worse in northern states? 


Charles Ballard, professor of economics at Michigan State University, says the narrowing of the wage gap in southern states is in part due to the lifting of some of the most severe restrictions imposed by Jim Crow laws.

Ballard says while the racial wage gap has shrunk in the south, Black workers in the north have lost ground to white workers. He attributes this to manufacturing jobs being replaced by jobs more dependent on educational attainment.

“Black Americans have increased their educational attainment but they’ve never quite caught up with white Americans, and it makes more of a difference now,” says Ballard.

He adds that, “We have failed to provide the same educational opportunities to Black children.” Beyond equity in education, Ballard says a modest increase to the minimum wage could  be a means of addressing the racial earnings disparity. 


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