Racial Disparities in Today’s Economy Racial Disparities in Today’s Economy

64th Economic Conference 64th Economic Conference

close
October 4, 2021
10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
October 5, 2021
10:00 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
October 6, 2021
9:00 A.M. – 1:30 P.M.
Virtual
Registration information below

Persistent and sizeable racial disparities in economic outcomes for workers and households are a longstanding feature of the U.S. economy. Differences in unemployment rate outcomes by race might be directly relevant to the central mission of the Federal Reserve. But substantial disparities in other areas either upstream or downstream from the labor market are also of great concern to the Fed. These include racial disparities in elementary and secondary education performance, rates of college completion and homeownership, wealth accumulation, and experience with the criminal justice system. Much of the public conversation around these topics has become highly politicized and is sometimes not grounded in the findings of careful research. This conference will introduce scholarly studies from recognized experts in their respective areas of research. These studies will summarize the current state of economic knowledge about the racial disparities, introduce new insight that enhances our understanding of the role that racial discrimination continues to play, and present commentary on existing policies and proposed policies intended to address these disparities.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Economic Research Conference Series fosters discussion and critical engagement among academics, central bankers, policymakers, and other experts on important economic policy topics.

Monday, October 4, 2021

10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Welcoming Remarks

Eric S. Rosengren

President and Chief Executive Officer
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

 

Keynote Address

Kerwin K. Charles

Indra K. Nooyi Dean and Frederic D. Wolfe Professor of Economics, Policy, and Management
Yale School of Management

 

Session One: Labor Markets

Some minority groups continue to experience higher rates of unemployment compared with white workers, and members of those groups who do have jobs tend to work in lower-paying fields and receive less non-wage compensation from their employers, such as health coverage. Are these disparities driven by racial discrimination by employers, lower educational attainment by the minority groups, and/or other factors? This session’s first paper examines the possible causes of racial disparities in employment; the second paper studies the factors that may influence racial disparities in wages and non-wage compensation.

Unemployment and Hiring

Author:
Robert W. Fairlie
Professor of Economics
University of California, Santa Cruz

Discussant:
Kevin Lang
Professor of Economics
Boston University

Moderator:
Osborne Jackson
Senior Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Wages, Occupations, and Compensation

Author:
Helen Levy
Research Professor
Institute for Social Research, School of Public Health, and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan

Discussant:
Melissa McInerney
Associate Professor of Economics
Tufts University

Moderator:
Osborne Jackson
Senior Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Session Two: Educational Attainment

Education is a vital part of the foundation that will shape future workers’ opportunities and lifetime earnings. Racial disparities have decreased for some important educational outcomes, but substantial gaps remain for others. Racial disparities in high school graduation and college matriculation rates, for example, have shrunk; however, gaps in test scores and rates of college completion persist. What accounts for these continued disparities? One of the papers that will be presented in this session focuses on K–12 education; the other addresses the higher education sector.

K–12 Education

Author:
Rucker C. Johnson
Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy
Goldman School of Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley

Discussant:
Sarah J. Reber
Associate Professor of Public Policy
Luskin School of Public Affairs
University of California, Los Angeles

Moderator:
Mary A. Burke
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Higher Education

Author:
Esteban M. Aucejo
Associate Professor of Economics
W.P. Carey School of Business
Arizona State University

Discussant:
Kalena E. Cortes
Verlin and Howard Kruse ’52 Founders Associate Professor
Bush School of Government and Public Service
Texas A&M University

Moderator:
Mary A. Burke
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

 

Session Three: Housing and Wealth

Homeownership is a widely shared goal of most Americans, and it is associated with a host of benefits. Homeownership can be a foundation for building wealth and fostering greater opportunity for economic mobility. Racial disparities in wealth and housing are substantial, and they can themselves generate further inequality that persists across generations. One of this session’s papers looks at the factors affecting the different rates of homeownership across racial groups; the other focuses on racial disparities in wealth accumulation.

Housing

Author:
Patrick Bayer
Gilhuly Family Professor of Economics
Duke University

Discussant:
Susan M. Wachter
Albert E. Sussman Professor of Real Estate and Professor of Finance
The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania

Moderator:
Paul S. Willen
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Wealth

Authors:
John Sabelhaus
Senior Fellow
Brookings Institution
Adjunct Research Professor
University of Michigan


Jeffrey P. Thompson
Vice President and Director of the New England Public Policy Center
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Discussant:
Dionissi Aliprantis
Senior Research Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Moderator:
Paul S. Willen
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Session 4: Criminal Justice

Highly publicized police shootings of Black Americans have galvanized protest in recent years, but racial disparities are evident across the criminal justice system. From traffic stops and arrests to incarceration and sentencing, African Americans are disproportionately represented in experiences with police, courts, and prisons. One of the papers that will be presented in this session focuses on police practices and criminal activity; the other addresses the courts and incarceration.

Crime and Police Interaction

Author:
John M. MacDonald
Professor of Criminology and Sociology
University of Pennsylvania

Discussant:
Emily K. Weisburst
Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Luskin School of Public Affairs
University of California, Los Angeles

Moderator:
Christopher L. Foote
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Courts: Conviction and Sentencing

Author:
H. Naci Mocan
Ourso Distinguished Chair in Economics
E.J. Ourso College of Business
Louisiana State University

Discussant: Crystal S. Yang
Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

Moderator:
Christopher L. Foote
Senior Economist and Policy Advisor
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

 

Closing Panel: “Understanding Current Racial Disparities and Identifying Ways to Improve Conditions for Students, Workers, and Families of Color—Finding a Path Forward in Divided Times”

Careful research is crucial for both understanding the main factors driving racial disparities in today’s economy and developing policies that could change the outcomes examined at this conference. For our research to inform policy, though, we have to communicate with the public and with policymakers. What advice can economists offer to policymakers in a world as politically divided as ours seems to be? How can we discuss topics as sensitive as these with a broader world beyond our institutional and political “bubbles”?

Panelists

Lisa D. Cook
Professor of Economics and International Relations
Michigan State University

Glenn C. Loury
Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences and Professor of Economics
Brown University

Harry J. Holzer
John LaFarge Jr. SJ Professor of Public Policy
McCourt School of Public Policy
Georgetown University

Research Publications

New England Economic Indicators, Current Policy Perspectives, Research Reports, Policy Reports, and Working Papers

See our privacy policy