Reaching Across the Race Barrier

 New research on the race wage gap points to the important role multi-ethnic churches can play in reducing race-based income disparities.

The race wage gap is highest in major metropolitan areas, such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, economists Elizabeth Ananat at Duke University, Shihe Fu at Xiamen University and Stephen L. Ross at University of Connecticut found, much to their surprise. Though the large metro areas are thought by many to hold more progressive views about racial differences, the black-white wage gap was about 20 percent smaller in cities of around one million people. Another way of describing the finding is that the gap between black and white wages increases 2.5 percent for every million person increase in urban population.

The most interesting part of the study, "Race-Specific Agglomeration Economies: Social Distance and the Black-White Wage Gap," published in the April 2013, issue of The National Bureau of Economic Research, was the reason blacks made much less than whites in major metropolitan areas than in small cities. The answer, the researchers found, has to do with social networking.

Social networking influences the sharing of information that aids job advancement. And, in the largest urban areas, that social networking is more likely to take place is social settings that are racially or ethnically homogenous, such eating lunch, going to parties, enjoying an after-work cocktail, and going to church.