Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Working Paper - SCU Leavey School of Business Research Paper
Title African Americans in the US Economy Since Emancipation
Author(s)
Issue 11-09
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2011
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/William_Sundstrom2/publication/228204287_African_Americans_in_t​he_U.S._Economy_Since_Emancipation/links/5512f2c20cf232031999cf21.pdf
Abstract
This paper explores the history of African Americans in the U.S. economy since
emancipation. With the end of the Civil War, some four million former slaves had gained
their freedom, but the freed people faced daunting economic challenges, including
poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination. Despite these adverse conditions, the economic
status of African Americans improved over the ensuing century, if haltingly and
unevenly. Progress was driven by three major forces. First, both inside and outside the
South, black educational gains narrowed the black-white skill gap. Second, black workers
moved to opportunities in burgeoning urban labor markets. Third, especially during the
1960s, racial discrimination in labor and other markets declined under pressure from the
civil rights movement, equal opportunity law, and diminishing racial prejudice on the part
of whites. The decades since the achievements of the 1960s present a decidedly more
mixed picture. Overt racial discrimination plays a less substantial role in limiting the
opportunities of African Americans in the U.S. economy than it did half a century ago.
On the other hand, progress toward narrowing the economic gaps between blacks and
whites has stagnated. Particularly concerning has been the concentration of poverty and
social dislocation in inner-city neighborhoods, exploding black male incarceration rates,
and the large and persistent racial skill gap.

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