Kenneth Chay

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Last name

During the 1980s, did the sharp increase in the college-high school wage differential
represent a rise in the college premium, or a growth in the payoff to unmeasured "ability" or
"skill"? Can the slowdown in black-white wage convergence or the widening black-white gap
among young workers witnessed during the 1980s be explained by a rise in the return to pre-labor
market factors correlated with race? In this study, we show that it is possible to use across-group
variation in within-group wage variances from multiple periods to identify the change in the return
to unobservable skill, within a relatively unrestrictive error-components model of wages. The
identification does not require full specification of the time-series properties or the functional form
of the errors. Male earnings data from the CPS show that there is useful variation in within-group
wage variances -- enough to estimate a growth in the return to unobservable skill of about 10 to
20 percent during the 1980s. In our analysis, these magnitudes imply that even alter controlling for
the effects of an increase in the payoff to unobservable skill, college-educated workers still gain
substantially relative to high school-educated workers, while young black men still experience a
significant wage decline relative to white men during the l980s.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Chay, K., & Lee, D. (1996). Changes in Relative Wages in the 1980s: Returns to Observed and Unobserved Skills and Black-White Wage Differentials. Retrieved from (Original work published December 1996)
Working Papers

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) of 1972 extended civil rights coverage to
employers with l5-24 employees, while leaving unaffected the civil rights protection for employees of
larger finns. In conjunction with already existing state fair employment practice (FEP) laws, the EEOA
provides a “natural experiment” in which the treatment and control groups are defined by differences across
industries in the fraction of workers employed in the newly-covered establishments and across states in the
scope of the PEP laws. Using data from the Current Population Surveys, the treatment and control group
methodology is used to evaluate the impact of civil rights policy. This analysis shows that there were large
shifts in the employment and pay practices of the industries most affected by the amendment. The timing
of the relative gains and their concentration by industry and region provide evidence that the EEOA had a
positive impact on the labor market status of African-Americans.

Year of Publication
Date Published
Publication Language
Citation Key
Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 51, No. 4, July 1998
Chay, K. (1995). The Impact of Federal Civil Rights Policy on Black Economic Progress: Evidence From the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. Retrieved from (Original work published August 1995)
Working Papers