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Race and Schooling in the South, 1880-1950: An Economic History.

By Robert A. Margo. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1990. Pp. x, 164. $24.95.

This book provides an examination of the interrelationships between race, schooling, and labor market outcomes in the South from the postbellum period through the early 1950s. These relationships have been examined by other researchers, and two identifiable groups of researchers have emerged. One group concludes that the vintage schooling hypothesis explains these interrelationships. The hypothesis, based on a human capital model of labor markets, states that racial differences in both the quality and quality of education are the major cause of the racial differences in labor market outcomes. A second group of researchers, classified by Margo as institutionalists, concludes that even if these differences in the quality and quality of education has not existed, a substantial differences in the black-white earnings ratio would still have existed. In this book, Margo uses a variety of basic econometric techniques and previously unexploited data sources to demonstrate that a model based on "an eclectic synthesis" of these two views combined with a factor which Margo calls "intergenerational drag" provides a better explanation of the interrelationships between race, schooling, and labor market outcomes than either the vintage schooling hypothesis or the institutionalist model.

Aside from the first chapter, which provides an introduction and overview, and the last chapter, which summarizes the findings of Margo's research, each of the chapters can be read independently and are accessible to advance undergraduates with limited exposure to econometrics. Chapter 2 provides a review of the racial differences in the rates of illiteracy, school attendance, schooling completed, and the racial division of public school expenditures in the South. While the reader is left with a comprehensive picture of tremendous racial differences that existed in the South, these racial differences are not contrasted with the racial differences that existed in other areas of the county. Margo demonstrates that "although racial differences in literacy and school attendance decreased in successive cohorts, the racial gap remained persistently large" and that "successive cohorts of black children were educated in better and better schools." However, this was also true for the cohorts of white children and the net result is a U-shaped pattern of the racial differences in the quality of schooling.

In Chapter 3, Margo attempts to explain this U-shaped pattern, attributing the decline in the black-to-white ratio per pupil expenditures in the late nineteenth century to two factors: black disenfranchisement and the growing demand for better white schools. These two factors complementary explanations of the decline. "Disenfrachisement made progressive for middle-class whites--better white schools--cheaper to finance." After explaining this decline, Margo then deals an issue first raised by Gunnar Mydral in An American Dilemma. As Mydral notes, "The great wonder is that the principle of the Negroes' right to public education was not renounced altogether. But it did not happen. "Margo explanation is that a combination of the threat of legal intervention under the separate-but-equal doctrine, the potential economic benefits to southern whites from a better-educated black labor force, and the threat of black migration if schools for their children were not provided are the factors which explain the continued public funding of black education in the South.

Racial differences in teacher salaries in the South both contributed to the racial differences in school expenditures and also were a consequences of these differences. In Chapter 4, Margo uses regression analysis to explain the racial differences in the wage rates of black and white teachers. He estimates separate wage equations for black and white teachers and concludes that in 1910 "80-85 percent of the racial salary gap is attributed to racial differences in the coefficients." He reports similar results for 1940. This wage discrimination is a consequences of the lack of employment opportunities for educated black outside of teaching and the behavior of school boards. In the 1940s the average annual salaries of black teachers in the South increased by 82 percent and the black-white salary ratio increased by 30 percent. A major in this increase was the increased demand for black teachers due to an increase in black high school attendance rates and changes in the general social and political climate in the post World War II era. During this same time period, the supply of black teachers was decreasing as other labor market options became available.

While the separate-but-equal doctrine was not enforced in the South. Margo estimates that "while strict enforcement of the separate-but-equal doctrine would narrowed the racial differences in school attendance, literacy rates, and test scores. . . . separate-but-equal was not enough to fully equalize educational outcomes." In Chapter 5, Margo finds that differences in the socioeconomic backgrounds of the families of white and black students are shown to be a more important factor in explaining the racial differences in educational achievement. "Had incomes and wealth been equalized, the racial literacy gap would have been narrowed by even more than if separate-but-equal had been enforced." Margo labels this as the "intergenarational drag" factor.

In Chapter 6, Margo examines how racial differences in educational contributed to employment segregation in the South. Margo concludes, as have other researchers, that "race, not schooling or spatial mismatch, was the principal factor behind employment segregation in the South." He also shows that "employment segregation increased after controlling for racial differences in schooling and other factors. The rise in employment segregation was not, primarily a consequences of racial differences in human capital." This finding is new and demonstrates that employment segregation cannot be eliminated solely by enhancing educational opportunities for minorities. Active direct intervention in labor markets is necessary to end employment segregation.

Chapter 7 documents that increased educational attainment increased the probability of a black migrating out of the South. Migration was a better investment for better educated blacks since the benefits of migration were a higher and the costs of acquiring information about the North were lower.

The book is well written and should be of interest to readers interested in either discrimination or educational policy, as well as those interested in economic history. Martin Milkman Murray State University
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Author:Milkman, Martin
Publication:Southern Economic Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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