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Abstract

Job displacement, caused by a variety of structural changes in the economy, is one of the dominant themes in contemporary U.S. labor market analysis. The ability of displaced workers to adjust to their permanent job loss is a subject of considerable interest to economists, policymakers, and the general public. This article reports on one potentially troubling aspect of job displacement: racial differences in post-displacement labor market outcomes. Using three surveys designed to identify displaced workers, the principal findings of this detailed examination of racial differentials are: 1) because of the occupational composition of the black labor force over the period 1979-86, blacks faced a higher risk of job displacement; 2) the proportion of blacks reemployed is quite low and differences between blacks and whites in the likelihood of reemployment are larger, and potentially more important, than differences in earnings losses; 3) the difference between blacks and whites in the likelihood of reemployment narrowed as economic conditions improved following the 1981-82 recession; 4) blacks experience considerably longer durations of joblessness than do whites; and 5) following displacement, the proportion of blacks employed in manufacturing industries and production-related occupations fell by more than did the proportion of whites employed in the same industries and occupations.

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