Education and Wages in the 1980s and 1990s: Are All Groups Moving Up Together?


Tootell, and Bob Triest for very helpful comments on earlier drafts. A considerable body of economics research has described and investigated the educational wage premium—the degree to which highly educated workers are paid more than less-educated workers. Much of the interest revolves around two related facts: (1) The payoff to education has risen steeply in recent decades, and (2) the rise in the payoff accounts for a significant fraction of the increase in overall wage inequality. These facts have led many to conclude that, at least from an individual perspective, higher educational attainment is a passport out of the lower end of the income distribution. This prescription appears to have taken hold; U.S. residents today obtain more education than earlier cohorts. The fraction of the population who are high school dropouts has fallen, and today's high school graduates are more likely to continue on to college than those of the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s. However, given the time and resources that both individuals and society are investing, it seems useful to ask if everyone sees the same payoff to such educational upgrading. In particular, does the typical payoff to educational upgrading vary among demographic groups, defined by sex, race, or Hispanic origin? Do such groups see the same premium paid for additional years of schooling, and did that premium rise at the same pace for all these groups in the 1980s and 1990s? If not, further research is needed on the sources of the differences in payoff and what might be done to ensure that no group finds itself at a disadvantage. This article describes median earnings by sex, race, Hispanic origin, and educational attainment during the 1980s and 1990s and then seeks out the sources of wage differences at each education level. Some disparities are attributable to differences in non-education worker qualifications

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@inproceedings{Bradbury2002EducationAW, title={Education and Wages in the 1980s and 1990s: Are All Groups Moving Up Together?}, author={Katharine L. Bradbury}, year={2002} }