The Costs of Employment Segregation: Evidence from the Federal Government under Wilson



We link personnel records of the federal civil service to census data for 1907-1921 to study the segregation of the civil service by race under President Woodrow Wilson. Using a difference-indifferences design to compare the black-white wage gap around Wilson’s presidential transition, we find that the introduction of employment segregation increased the black wage penalty by 7 percentage points. This gap increases over time and is driven by a reallocation of already-serving black civil servants to lower paid positions. Our results thus document significant costs borne by minorities during a unique episode of state-sanctioned discrimination.