Reversal of fortune: Explaining the decline in Black women's earnings

Yvonne D. Newsome, F. Nii Amoo Dodoo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


The earnings of African American women increased throughout the 1960s and 1970s, yet by the 1980s there were signs of a reversal. Using data from the 1980 and 1990 censuses of population, this study examines the deterioration in Black women's earnings across the 1980s. The authors ask what caused the earnings reversal given the improvements in Black women's human capital and industrial locations. The study finds that while the returns to schooling and industrial distribution improved over the decade, these gains were offset by the negative effects of changing family structure, nonmetropolitan residence, and occupational redistribution. Noteworthy is the fact that despite higher returns for public sector employment, work in this sector contributed little to Black women's changing economic status, perhaps because of cutbacks in affirmative action programs. The authors also find evidence of a widening bifurcation among African American women workers, with growing numbers of this group concentrated in the lower end of the earnings distribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-464
Number of pages23
JournalGender and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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