Posted on July 9, 2008

Speech Patterns and Racial Wage Inequality

Jeffrey Grogger, University of Chicago, June 2008


Speech patterns differ substantially between whites and African Americans. I collect and analyze data on speech patterns to understand the role they may play in explaining racial wage differences. Among blacks, speech patterns are highly correlated with measures of skill such as schooling and ASVAB scores. They are also highly correlated with the wages of young workers. Black speakers whose voices were distinctly identified as black by anonymous listeners earn about 10 percent less than whites with similar observable skills. Indistinctly identified blacks earn about 2 percent less than comparable whites. I discuss a number of models that may be consistent with these results and describe the data that one would need to distinguish among them.

[Editor’s Note: “Speech Patterns and Racial Wage Inequality” can be downloaded or read as a PDF document here.]