Black-White Income Inequality During Jim Crow: Evidence from “Passing” for White
This paper investigates the phenomenon of “passing” for white by documenting several new descriptive facts. Exposure to racial discrimination was positively associated with Black men “passing” for white. Passing was associated with large income gains and increased economic mobility.. However, passing was also associated with high social costs; beyond the loss of one's Black identity, passing was associated with higher separation rates from a person's community and family. Using the income of Black men who passed for white, we construct a range of Black-white income gaps for a counterfactual of no discrimination. The estimates imply that even partially ameliorating discrimination would have increased the Black-to-white income ratio by at least 2.35 to 12 percentage points.
Qian, Nancy. 2023. Black-White Income Inequality During Jim Crow: Evidence from “Passing” for White.