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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Barzel, Yoram. 1997.Economic Analysis of Property Rights. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Burbridge, Lynn C. 1994. “Govermment, For-Profit, and Third Sector Employment: Differences by Race and Sex, 1950–1990.” Wellesley College Center for Research on Women Special Report.
Cornell, Stephen and Douglas Hartmann. 1998.Ethnicity and Race: Making Identities in a Changing World. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
Cunningham, J.S. and Nadja Zalokar. 1992. “The Economic Progress of Black Women, 1940–1980: Occupational Distribution and Relative Wages.”Industrial and Labor Relations Review 45 (3): 540–555.
Darity, Jr., William A., Patrick L. Mason and James B. Stewart. 2000. “The Economics of Identity: The Origin and Persistence of Racial Norms.” Unpublished Paper.
Donaldson, Gary A. 2000.The Second Reconstruction: A History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing.
Donohue, John J. and James Heckman. 1991. “Continuous Versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks.”Journal of Economic Literature 29 (4): 1603–43.
Economic Report of the President, 2001. http://w3.access.gpo.gov/eop/index.html
Edwards-Yearwood, Grace. 1988.In the Shadow of the Peacock. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Harris, Cheryl I. 1993. “Whiteness as Property.”Harvard Law Review 106 (8): 1707–1791.
King, Mary C. 1993. “Black Women's Breakthrough Into Clerical Work: An Occupational Tipping Model.”Journal of Economic Issues, 27 (4): 1097–1125.
King, Mary C. 1999. “Keeping People in Their Place: An Exploratory Analysis the Role of Violence in the Maintenance of “Property Rights” in Race and Gender Privileges in the U.S..”Review of Radical Political Economics 31 (3): 1–11.
Malveaux, Julianne, 1984. “Low Wage Black Women: Occupational Descriptions, Strategies for Change” Unpublished Paper Prepared for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
Mare, Robert D. and Christopher Winship. 1990.Current Population Surveys: Uniform March Files, 1964–88 (computer file). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin, center for Demography and Ecology (producer), 1989. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (distributor).
Olzak, Susan and Suzanne Shanahan. 1996. “Deprivation and Race Riots: An Extension of Spilerman's Analysis.”Social Forces, 74 (3): 931–61.
Olzak, Susan, Suzanne Shanahan and Elizabeth H. McEneaney. 1996. “Poverty, Segregation, and Race Riots: 1960 to 1993.American Sociological Review, 61 (4): 590–613.
Olzak, Susan and Elizabeth West. 1995. “Ethnic Collective Action in Contemporary Urban U.S.: Project Description and Coding Manual.” Stanford University.
Piven, Frances Fox and Richard A. Cloward, 1977.Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail. New York: Pantheon Books.
Reich, Michael. 1988. “Postwar Racial Income Differences: Trends and Theories.” in Garth Mangum and Peter Philips (eds.)Three Worlds of Labor Economics, pp. 144–167. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
Smith, James and Finis Welch. 1989. “Black Economic Progress Since Myrdal.”Journal of Economic Literature 27 (2): 519–64.
U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1960.Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1957. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports Special Studies Series P-23 No. 80. n.d.The Social and Economic Status of the Black Population in the United States: An Historical View, 1790–1978 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, P60-203,Measuring 50 Years of Economic Change Using the March Current Population Survey, 1998. Washington, D.C., U.S. Government Printing Office.
About this article
Cite this article
King, M.C. “Race riots” and black economic progress. Rev Black Polit Econ 30, 51–66 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02687550
- Labor Market
- White Woman
- Black Woman
- State Group
- Current Population Survey