Melvin Keys

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Patrick M. Lenihan


The Black/white income ratio (BWIR) has increased steadily from 1939-87 for families with two incomes. Early-on, the income disparity was greatest for black females compared to black males. Because of race and sex discrimination, black females were lagging far behind society in wage differences. Today, the opposite is true, black males lag far behind black females in income: compared to their white counterparts. One of the reasons for such a large reversal in income differences maybe the opportunities that were available to black females in such occupations as teaching and nursing from 1940-75.

Migration, which looks at regional composition, was shown in this study to have a major impact on the BWIR. Although it is not as important today, migration accounted for a large percent of the changes in income from 1940-70. Education, another major factor involved in changes within the income structure, has proven to be a valid source of information in research used to explain changes in the BWIR. In 1939, the median years of school for black and white persons 25 and over were 5.7 and 8.6, respectively. By 1987, the median years of school for blacks and whites where 12.4 and 12.7.

Scholastic achievement remains a key areas of concern in explaining changes in the BWIR. James Gwartney's study on black/white income changes discusses the lack of achievement in the nonwhite population. According to regression results, scholastic achievement is still prevalent today if we look at standardized tests for certain ethnic groups. Some of the tests include IQ scores, the SAT, and the ACT. Although there have been certain biases associated with these tests, one cannot ignore the results.

The question of how to measure employment discrimination still remains a key concern in efforts to try and bring about equality within the labor force.