than quadrupled during the same 50-year period (for detailed comparisons, see Smith and Welch, 1989). Not only did the standard of living of Black men improve as measured against earlier Black generations, it rose relative to their White contemporaries.

Table 4–1 shows comparative increases in the relative economic status of Black and Hispanic men from 1940 to 1990. In 1940, the average Black male worker earned only 43 percent as much as his White counterpart; by 1990, it was 75 percent as much. The pace at which Blacks were able to narrow the wage gap, however, was far from uniform. The largest improvement occurred during the 1940s; during the 1950s, advances slowed considerably; during the 1960s and 1970s, the rise in Black men’s wages was more than 10 percent higher than the rise in White men’s wages; but after 1980, the pace of relative labor-market progress for Blacks slowed considerably.

Although the improvement in the relative economic status of Blacks from 1940 to 1990 was impressive, by 1990 incomes of Black males were still significantly lower than those of White males. The description of the last half century’s racial income differences has two messages: (1) considerable progress has been made in eradicating the wage gap between the races; (2) but progress has not eliminated race as an important predictor of an individual’s income.

Table 4–1 also shows a remarkably constant wage gap for Hispanics from 1940 to 1990. In 1990, Hispanics earned 67 percent as much as U.S.-born White men, only slightly higher than the Hispanic-White wage gap of 1940. This aggregate stability, however, hides important changes over time. For example, from 1970 to 1990, there was a steady deterioration in the relative economic status of Hispanic men, as their wages decreased by 16 percent compared to White men.

The lack of Hispanic economic progress is most apparent when com-

TABLE 4–1 Minority Male Wages as a Percent of White Male Wages

Minority Group

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

Blacks

43.3

55.2

57.5

64.4

72.6

74.5

All Hispanics

64.2

73.8

70.2

73.7

70.7

67.3

Mexicans

55.6

71.3

70.0

70.1

68.0

63.0

Puerto Ricans

82.9

71.5

61.3

66.7

66.1

74.5

Cubans

n.a.

n.a.

n.a.

75.6

82.8

86.6

Other Hispanics

82.1

85.4

82.3

82.7

77.6

71.9

Blacks as a percent of Hispanics

67.4

74.8

81.9

87.4

1.03

1.07



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