Why Black and Brown people are failing the American Job Market
The United States is a country of color and people of color make up the majority of its labor force, but only about 30 percent of the population.
But according to a new study by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, that imbalance is getting worse.
The report, which was released Thursday, shows that the black and brown communities are making up a larger share of the labor force than whites but still struggle to make up half of full-time jobs.
In 2020, just 9 percent of full time workers in black communities were employed in the service sector.
The same is true for white communities: They only accounted for 16 percent of workers in the same occupations.
In contrast, black and Hispanic communities accounted for more than 40 percent of their workforce.
The researchers analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Bureau of Economic Analysis, which is the Census Bureau’s central source for labor statistics.
They looked at a range of occupations including retail, food service, construction, and public administration.
The authors found that African American men and women were more likely to be employed in occupations that require a college degree or a bachelor’s degree, while Hispanic women and men were less likely to have a college or a master’s degree.
Meanwhile, Hispanic men and white women made up less than a quarter of full service jobs.
This gap in employment is particularly troubling because of the fact that black and Latino communities are more likely than white communities to be unemployed.
As of January 2020, about 25 percent of all full- and part-time workers were working part time, which the report says “significantly” understates the full employment rate.
The gap in full- or part-timers can’t be explained by the fact some jobs are more desirable, such as sales or nursing, and more than half of all people employed in retail work part time.
Instead, the report finds that the reasons for these low employment rates are much more complex.
The study notes that in the 1980s and 1990s, white men were more highly educated than black men and Hispanic men, but that white men now hold less of a college credential.
Black men also earn less than white men in college, but Hispanics hold the same level of educational attainment.
“In recent decades, white males have been much more likely, on average, to earn a bachelor degree and less likely, as a group, to have obtained a master degree,” the report notes.
“Yet, despite these differences in educational attainment, the vast majority of black males and Hispanic males have jobs that require bachelor’s degrees.
They also are more often employed in sectors that require higher education, such in health care, education, and technology.”
The authors conclude that the problem of race and class in the United States has not changed, but has “increased dramatically.”
“In the early decades of the 20th century, when whites dominated the labor market, black men were disproportionately likely to earn lower wages than white males, and white men held more of a degree,” they write.
“This pattern continued through the 1950s, when black men held the majority share of jobs and white workers the smallest share of work.
Today, white male labor market participation is more than double that of black male labor force participation.”
Black and Hispanic people in the US are disproportionately represented in low-paying jobs that are often seen as low-status, such like retail, restaurants, and cleaning services.
“We know that there is still a racial bias in the retail sector, that white customers are less likely than black and latino customers to seek retail jobs, and that they also have fewer opportunities to advance in retail than white customers,” the authors write.
The analysis also found that the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. workforce is changing.
In 2017, white women comprised 55 percent of non-farm wage and salary workers and 57 percent of sales and professional occupations, but the share of white men increased from 34 percent to 42 percent.
Black and Latino men remained more than twice as likely to work in the manufacturing sector, but held just a third of the white-male-dominated jobs.
And the share in non-agricultural occupations increased from 7 percent to 10 percent.
In short, the United State is becoming more diverse.
But the study also highlights the need to expand access to training programs that can give people the skills to succeed.
“It is increasingly clear that the skills of today’s workers can be taught to tomorrow’s workers, but we also need to give workers the skills needed to move to the next level in the economy,” the study’s authors write, “including in higher-skill occupations.”
The report is titled “Race and Class in the American Labor Market: Are we Getting Better?.”
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