Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



There are four major objectives of this research. The first objective is to determine whether and to what extent differences in unemployment rates in Boston among black, Hispanic, and white workers are due to the following: (1) the differences in the percentage of individuals in each group who experience a spell of unemployment at one time or another during the year, that is the incidence of unemployment; or (2) the differences in the average number of spells of unemployment during the year, that is the frequency of unemployment; or (3) the differences in the average length of time a spell of unemployment lasts, that is the duration of unemployment.

The second objective is to ascertain whether a systematic relationship exists between duration and frequency of unemployment and the immediate causes for the occurrence of a spell of unemployment. Four such causes are recognized: (1) involuntary job loss; (2) voluntary job leaving or quitting; (3) new entry into the labor market; and (4) reentry into the market after a period of withdrawal.

The third objective is to determine what proportion of the differences in the incidence or probability of black, Hispanic, or white unemployment can be accounted for by differences in the labor market characteristics that are assumed to determine employability and what proportion cannot be so accounted for and may therefore be due to labor market discrimination.

The fourth objective is to assess the changes that occur in these dimensions of unemployment over time, particularly those that occur over the business cycle's periods of recession and recovery.

The major research on these topics is not yet completed inasmuch as a richer data base has recently become available and is in the process of being made ready for use. Nevertheless, some preliminary results are in hand and are reported herein. This is the first of several reports in this ongoing research. The results reported here are based primarily on data from the Current Population Survey files for 1980, 1982, and 1985, and on previously unpublished geographic survey data for the same period compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data used is for the Boston Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) rather than for the city of Boston itself. Whereas the population of the Boston SMSA is in excess of 2 million persons, the city of Boston is just over one-fourth that amount, around 600,000. Thus, the data reflects economic activity in the entire area of which Boston is the hub. When Boston is referred to hereinafter it is to be understood as the Boston SMSA.


Research Report No. 16


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