The northern United States long served as a land of opportunity for black Americans, but today the region’s racial gap in intergenerational mobility rivals that of the South. I show that racial composition changes during the peak of the Great Migration (1940-1970) reduced upward mobility in northern cities in the long run, with the largest effects on black men. I identify urban black population increases during the Migration at the commuting zone level using a shift-share instrument, interacting pre-1940 black southern migrant location choices with predicted out- migration from southern counties. The Migration’s negative effects on children’s adult outcomes appear driven by neighborhood factors, not changes in the characteristics of the average child. As early as the 1960s, the Migration led to greater white enrollment in private schools, increased spending on policing, and higher crime and incarceration rates. I estimate that the overall change in childhood environment induced by the Great Migration explains 43% of the upward mobility gap between black and white men in the region today.
The earnings difference between black and white workers fell dramatically in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This paper shows that the extension of the minimum wage played a critical role in this decline. The 1966 Fair Labor Standards Act extended federal minimumwage coverage to agriculture, restaurants, nursing homes, and other services whichwere previously uncovered and where nearly a third of black workers were employed. We digitize over 1,000 hourly wage distributions from Bureau of Labor Statistics industry wage reports and use CPS micro-data to investigate the effects of this reform on wages, employment, and racial inequality. Using a cross-industry difference-in-differences design, we show that wages rose sharply for workers in the newly covered industries. The impact was nearly twice as large for black workers as for white. Within treated industries, the racial gap adjusted for observables fell from 25 log points pre-reform to zero afterwards. Using a bunching design, we find no effect of the reform on employment. We can rule out significant dis-employment effects for black workers. The1966 extension of the minimum wage can explain more than 20% of the reduction in the racial earnings and income gap during the Civil Rights Era. Our findings shed new light on the dynamics of labor market inequality in the United States and suggest that minimum wage policy can play a critical role in reducing racial economic disparities.
The economics literature on Atlantic slavery attests to its negative long-run impact on development outcomes in Africa and the Americas. What was slavery’s impact on Europe? In this paper, I test the hypothesis that slavery contributed to modern economic growth in Europe using data on European participation in the Atlantic slave trade. I estimate a panel fixed effects model and show that the number of slaving voyages is positively associated with European city growth from 1600-1850. A 10% increase in slaving voyages is associated with a 1.2% increase in port city population. Using a newly created dataset on British port-level trade, I show that for the UK, this effect is distinct from that of general overseas trade, which also increased during this period.