AFRICANGLOBE – How much better is life for Black Americans compared with the early 1970s? One way to try and answer that question is to look at measures of subjective well-being, which for the inexact purposes of this blog we’ll call “happiness.”
Blacks have long lagged whites by this measure, presumably because Black Americans have had to live with extensive discrimination. But a new working paper by the economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers finds that about two-fifths of the happiness gap closed in the years from 1972 to 2008, a period in which there was relatively little progress in closing the income gap between Whites and Blacks.
The paper is freely available and interesting throughout, but two additional points are striking. First, the happiness gap closed in part because Whites grew less happy. And second, the income of Black women has pulled to nearly even with that of White women (although even in the 1970s White women earned just 10 percent more). Black men have closed some of their income gap but were still earning just 72 percent of White men’s earnings.