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Race, culture, and skill: interracial wage differentials among African Americans, Latinos, and whites

Mason, Patrick L. (1997): Race, culture, and skill: interracial wage differentials among African Americans, Latinos, and whites. Published in: Review of Black Political Economy , Vol. 25, No. 3 (March 1997): pp. 5-39.

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This article examines the interrelationships among race, culture, skill, and the distribution of wages. I utilize a three-equation system to explore this process: skill is a multidimensional productive attribute measured by years of education and work effort; educational attainment is a function of class background and individual effort; and individual wage rates are a function of skill and class background. By further assuming that effort is differentially distributed across individuals and social groups, I am able to estimate reduced form equations for educational and earnings attainment, where both equations are functions of the class backgrounds and race of individuals. The collective results of this article challenge the conventional wisdom among economists that African American and Latino job skills are of a lower quality than white job skills. To the extent that effort is an important element of worker skill, our results suggest that neither African American nor Latino labor is of lower quality than white labor. The results regarding differences between African Americans and whites in educational attainment, i.e., African Americans are able to translate a given level of resources into higher levels of educational attainment, reaffirm previous findings in the literature. The results on Latino versus white educational attainment are novel. Additionally, unlike previous research, this article connects racial differences in the skill acquisition process to the economics of discrimination.

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