Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2007


For over 30 years now empirical research on racial discrimination in the workplace has been defined by, and focused on, Becker's insight The literature is now extensive, highly technical, and to some extent fragmented-as groups of analysts have concentrated on different aspects of the problem. This paper is intended to be a "primer" on this work for the nonspecialist who wants to get up to speed on, or possibly begin contributing to, this line of research. In what follows, therefore, I highlight some of the important articles, key methodological advances, and central results that have been obtained to date. More specifically, in the rest of this section I lay out Becker's theory of discrimination and its central predictions. In Section 2 I introduce the reader, in a nontechnical way, to the scope of the research effort that has developed in the wake of Becker's work. I then turn, in Section 3, to studies of racial employment patterns in the airline and trucking industries and highlight the contributions of these studies to our understanding of discrimination in the workplace. Multi-industry studies of discrimination in the setting of wage rates are the focus of Section 4. In conclusion I offer some comments on what we have learned to date, and where do we go from here.


This article first appeared in the Fall 2007 issue of Ethics & Critical Thinking Journal and is reprinted with permission.

©2007 Franklin Publishing Company