“Race riots” and black economic progress

Conclusion

On the face of it, the case for the idea that the race riots of the late 1960s and early 1970s were instrumental in opening economic opportunities for African Americans appears strong. The years of the riots coincide with the only years since World War II in which African American men's incomes rose relative to those of white men until the mid 1990s. They are also the last years of strong gains for black women vis-à-vis white women. Analysts who focus on supply-side labor market changes cannot claim that relative educational quality or quantity changed substantially during this time, nor that migration to strong labor markets was particularly intense during this period. Scholars who take the position that the civil rights legislation was responsible for these gains must assert that this legislation had a powerful immediate impact that was muted within a decade.

However, the cross-sectional analysis presented here demonstrates little relationship between regional progress for African Americans and relatively proximate race riots. It may well be that the data intended to capture the economic impact of the riots, the Mare-Winship samples CPS data, are organized in geographical groupings that are too large to isolate the effect of race riots on local labor markets. Or it may be that the effect of the race riots was quickly diffused through the nation, carried by the national news media into every living room, which might be discernible with a time series analysis. Or it may be that other influences including the civil rights movement and the extremely strong economy of the late sixties and early seventies overcame employers' longstanding disinterest in employing black labor in better-paid positions.

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King, M.C. “Race riots” and black economic progress. Rev Black Polit Econ 30, 51–66 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687550

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Keywords

  • Labor Market
  • White Woman
  • Black Woman
  • State Group
  • Current Population Survey