Wages, racial composition, and quality sorting in labor markets
B. T. Hirsch
D. A. Macpherson
This paper examines the relationship between wage rates and the racial composition of jobs, using large cross-sectional and longitudinal samples constructed from monthly Current Population Surveys for 1983-92. Support is found for a "quality sorting" model that posits an equilibrium in which the racial composition of jobs serves as a skill index of unmeasured labor quality. Estimation of standard wage-level equations shows that wages of both black and white workers are substantially lower in occupations with a high density of blacks. Consistent with the quality sorting hypothesis, the magnitude of the relationship is reduced sharply after accounting for occupational skill measures. Longitudinal wage-change estimates controlling for person-specific quality indicate little if any causal effect of racial composition on wages. Estimates of racial discrimination are reduced only moderately after accounting for racial composition; unexplained differentials occur within occupations or reflect inter-occupational differences uncorrelated with racial composition and occupational skill measures.
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