The Review of Black Political Economy

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 61–81 | Cite as

Job Satisfaction in the United States: Are Blacks Still More Satisfied?

  • Swati MukerjeeEmail author


Despite the substantial literature on the paradox of the happy female worker, research has been sparse in investigating race differences in job satisfaction. The last national level study on racial differences in job satisfaction was done in 1981 when, using national level U.S. data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Mature Men for 1966, 1969 and 1971, Bartel showed that blacks had significantly more job satisfaction and further, that this racial gap had widened during this time. Though the reasons for this gap and its widening were not investigated, it was suggested, in a close parallel to the reason for the contented female worker, that lower expectations, in this case due to discrimination in the labor market, could be a reasonable explanation. Surprisingly, since then, there have been only a handful of studies focused on smaller, specific groups. This paper exploits two U.S. national level data sets, the GSS and the NLSY 1997, to examine the racial gap in job satisfaction. Simple means show that blacks are much less satisfied than whites and moreover, this difference has persisted not only across genders but also across almost four decades. To isolate the pure race effect, a sequential process is adopted by first examining the simple difference in the means of job satisfaction, then, through probit estimation, seeing the impact of individual attributes, finally progressing to incorporation of job attributes. Probit estimates give robust results. Blacks are significantly less satisfied than whites even when income, benefits and occupations are controlled. However, this racial gap is greater in the case of women and younger black men. An exploratory analysis shows that when discrimination is accounted for, the satisfaction gap is further reduced and the race coefficients are rendered insignificant. Estimates with comparison income show that the satisfaction gap is driven by perceived discrimination and not necessarily discrimination as captured by comparison income. This highlights the importance of policy measures to reduce perceptual discrimination.


Job satisfaction Black and white Gap in job satisfaction GSS data NLSY 97 data Gender differences in the racial gap in job satisfaction Perceptual discrimination 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsBentley UniversityWalthamUSA

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