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Racial Differences in Underemployment in American Cities

Daniel T. Lichter
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 93, No. 4 (Jan., 1988), pp. 771-792
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2780603
Page Count: 22
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Racial Differences in Underemployment in American Cities
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Abstract

The geographic mismatch between where blacks reside and where jobs are located is frequently cited as contributing to the growing black underclass in the nation's urban centers. The "spatial mismatch" hypothesis provides a framework for identifying several facets of change in the comparative employment circumstances of central city black and white men. Specifically, this paper examines black-white differences in underemployment during the 1970-82 period, employing the Labor Utilization Framework of Clogg and Sullivan. Using data from the Current Population Survey, the results provide little basis for optimism about the absolute or relative employment circumstances of urban black men. The analysis reveals that (a) underemployment increased over time for both whites and blacks but especially among young adults and those with low education; (b) racial polarization accelerated during 1970-82 in U.S. central cities, as the absolute gap in underemployment between blacks and whites increased substantially; (c) the significance of race increased over time, regardless of age group, level of education, or temporal macroeconomic shifts; and (d) the effects of education and age increased over time, suggesting a growing class-based and age-based bifurcation in the adequacy of employment in U.S. central cities.

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