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Race, Class, and Personal Income: An Empirical Test of the Declining Significance of Race Thesis, 1968-1988

Melvin E. Thomas
Social Problems
Vol. 40, No. 3 (Aug., 1993), pp. 328-342
DOI: 10.2307/3096883
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3096883
Page Count: 15
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Race, Class, and Personal Income: An Empirical Test of the Declining Significance of Race Thesis, 1968-1988
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Abstract

This paper is an empirical test of the "declining significance of race" interpretation of the situation of blacks in the United States. Wilson (1980) argued that class has superseded race as the most important explanatory factor. Other scholars (e.g., Willie 1978) have claimed that race is still an important determinant of life chances for blacks, regardless of social class. This study tests both the "race" and "class" perspectives in regard to racial differences in personal income using data from the 1968 and 1988 Current Population Surveys (March). In both 1968 and 1988, significant differences in personal income between blacks and whites remained after controlling for social class and other demographic variables. However, there was a 5.5 percentage point reduction of the racial effect from 1968 to 1988. Contrary to the assumptions of the declining significance of race thesis, blacks with higher levels of education and occupational status were found to be worse off than less educated, lower status blacks when compared to similar whites. Continuing discrimination across class lines is offered as the best explanation of the findings.

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