Long-Term Earnings Differentials Between African American and White Men by Educational Level Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2017, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature. This paper investigates long-term earnings differentials between African American and white men using data that match respondents in the Survey of Income and Program Participation to 30 years of their longitudinal earnings as recorded by the Social Security Administration. Given changing labor market conditions over three decades, we focus on how racial differentials vary by educational level because the latter has important and persistent effects on labor market outcomes over the course of an entire work career. The results show that the long-term earnings of African American men are more disadvantaged at lower levels of educational attainment. Controlling for demographic characteristics, work disability, and various indicators of educational achievement does not explain the lower long-term earnings of less-educated black men in comparison to less-educated white men. The interaction arises because black men without a high school degree have a larger number of years of zero earnings during their work careers. Other results show that this racial interaction by educational level is not apparent in cross-sectional data which do not provide information on the accumulation of zero earnings over the course of 30 years. We interpret these findings as indicating that compared to either less-educated white men or highly educated black men, the long-term earnings of less-educated African American men are likely to be more negatively affected by the consequences of residential and economic segregation, unemployment, being out of the labor force, activities in the informal economy, incarceration, and poorer health.

altmetric score

  • 3.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Sakamoto, A., Tamborini, C. R., & Kim, C.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • February 2018