Japanese American Wages, 1940-1990

Type Thesis or Dissertation - Doctor of Philosophy
Title Japanese American Wages, 1940-1990
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
URL https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=osu1064341404&disposition=inline
This dissertation examines the evolution of Japanese American males’ wages relative
to those of their white, native-born counterparts. Using data from the Integrated Public
Use Microsamples of the U.S. Censuses, this ratio of their average wages, adjusted for
age and geographic distributions, was less than 65% in 1940 and had risen to just over
100% in 1990. Five main questions are addressed: (1) Why were the wages of Japanese
Americans so low in 1940? (2) How did their relative wages rise so rapidly in the
decades after World War II? (3) What role did the internment of the vast majority of
mainland Japanese Americans play in the wage gaps from 1950 to 1980? (4) Did
internment effects vary by internees’ age at the time of their incarceration? (5) How
unique is the Japanese experience in the U.S. labor market? Specifically, how do their
wage gaps over this era compare with those for Chinese and Mexican Americans?
This dissertation finds that large portions of the significant Japanese-white wage
gaps before 1980 cannot be explained by differences in measurable characteristics such
as years of schooling and experience. The large gaps immediately before and after World
War II were due, in large part, to intense discrimination directed at Japanese Americans.
As this discrimination abated over time, the wage gap narrowed. The long run effects of
internment, including the loss of human capital embodied in three years exclusion from
the labor force, adversely affected wages of adolescent internees until at least 1960 and
adult internees as late as 1970, contributing to the aggregate wage gap.
The evolution of Japanese American wages is shown to be somewhat similar to that
of Chinese Americans but different from that of Mexican Americans. The Chinese-white
wage gap in 1940 was similar to that for Japanese Americans, also due to the impacts of
discriminatory laws and policies directed against them. Although a small wage gap
persists, it is attributable to a steady flow of recent immigrants who have not yet
assimilated into the U.S. labor market. Recently, U.S.-born Chinese men have had labor
market outcomes strikingly similar to those of Japanese men. The Mexican-white wage
gap widened throughout the period studied, but most of these gaps are explained by
differences in years of schooling.

Related studies