How Much Does It Cost You in Wages if You “Sound Black?”

Total time for this activity: 20 minutes

Read the following article from the Freakonomics website, entitled “How Much Does It Cost You in Wages if You “Sound Black?” Freakonomics is an economic framework that seeks to explain social and behavioral phenomena from an economic lens. This article provides key findings of research conducted by University of Chicago economist Jeffrey Grogger, who compared the wages of people who “sound Black” and “sound white.”

After reading the article, answer these questions. Once you have answered the questions, compare your answers to those of the other members of your group.

  1. What does it mean for a person to “sound white” or “sound Black?”
  2. Place the following groups of people in order of their average wages based on information from the article:
    • Black people who “sound white”
    • White people who “sound Black”
    • Black people who “sound Black”
    • White people who “sound white”
  3. What linguistic, social, and economic factors do you believe contribute to the differential earnings of people who “sound white” and “sound Black?”

If you would like to learn more about this research by Grogger, you can find the citation to his work below.

Grogger, J. (2011). Speech patterns and racial wage inequality. The Journal of Human Resources, (46)1, 1-25.