Employer skill needs and labor market outcome by race and gender
H. J. Holzer
In this paper I use data from a recent survey of employers to investigate the effects of employer skill needs on the wage levels and employment of newly hired workers, and especially on how these outcomes differ by race and gender. The skill needs are measured by various human capital credentials required of applicants at the hiring stage (educational attainment, specific experience, prior training) and by the daily task performance of those who are newly hired (reading/writing, arithmetic, use of computers). The results show that few new jobs are available to those workers who lack most of these credentials or who cannot perform most of these tasks. This is true even of jobs that do not require applicants to have college degrees. The hiring and task performance requirements of new jobs are associated with lower employment levels of blacks relative to whites within each gender, and some tasks are associated with higher employment levels of females relative to males. These requirements also have significant effects on starting hourly wages. Both effects are found even after controlling for the educational attainments of hired workers. The effects of employer skill needs on employment patterns and wages help to account for some of the observed differences across groups in hourly wages, especially between black and white males, after controlling for education. Recent trends over time in relative wages and employment across these groups also seem to be quite consistent with these findings, along with evidence that these skill needs have been rising among employers. In addition, I find that various other employer characteristics such as their size, location, and the racial composition of their clientele also have significant effects on their tendencies to hire blacks. These findings suggest that employer preferences across racial groups play some role in determining employment outcomes of these groups, even after controlling for skill needs.
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