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HomeEconomicHistoric unemployment for Black men and women in the US: 1954-2021

Historic unemployment for Black men and women in the US: 1954-2021

Inequality in modern-day unemployment charges has obtained appreciable consideration, together with work demonstrating that Black teenagers, Black ladies, and Black males’s unemployment in the US is constantly worse than that of white teenagers, white ladies, and white males. Utilizing historic information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this put up sheds mild on longer-term traits of this inequality, wanting again over six many years.

Available information from the BLS reveals that unemployment charges for Black women and men have been roughly double these for white women and men, respectively, since 1972. These information additionally present that the unemployment price for Black males has exceeded that for Black ladies since 1980 (aside from 1987 and 1998). This put up reviews on unpublished BLS information which demonstrates that the stark inequality in unemployment charges is longstanding: non-white folks have had unemployment charges greater than double these of white folks way back to 1954. The patterns in unemployment charges for Black ladies relative to Black males, alternatively, have shifted over time.


Starting in 1972, the BLS started reporting the unemployment price individually by intercourse for Black folks, making it doable to evaluate traits for Black men and women individually.[1] Previous to 1972, BLS collected this information in two broad racial classes: white and non-white, which they known as “Black and different.”

I start by making clear who “Black and different” seemingly have been within the historic BLS information. Determine 1 shows the racial distribution within the U.S. from 1950 to 2020 utilizing information from the decennial U.S. Census and American Group Survey. As a result of Determine 1 is separated by racialized class, Hispanic/Latino ethnicity shouldn’t be proven separate from race. Based on these information, Black folks made up at the least 90% of the non-white inhabitants from 1950 to 1970. Thus, the beforehand unreported BLS information for “Black and different” folks can be utilized to make inferences about Black folks’s unemployment expertise from 1954 to 1971.[2]

figure 1: U.S. population by race

Black unemployment by intercourse from 1954 to 2021

Determine 2 reviews the unemployment charges for non-white (or “Black and different”), white, and Black men and women and Determine 3 reviews ratios from all out there years.[3] All through the greater than six many years coated within the determine, unemployment charges for non-white folks have been considerably greater than these of white folks, however the measurement of the gaps—and the charges for ladies relative to males—have modified some over this era.

unemployment 1954-2021
Figure 3 shows unemployment rate ratios by race and gender 1954-2021
Based on the historic BLS information in Determine 2, in 1954 the unemployment price for non-white males (the stable mild blue line, 10.3%) was greater than double white males’s (the stable gray line, 4.8%); the unemployment price for non-white ladies (the dashed mild blue line, 9.2%) in comparison with white ladies (the dashed gray line, 5.5%) was close to double.

Non-white ladies skilled a better unemployment price relative to non-white males from 1962 to 1979, with the most important hole in 1967 of three.1 share level distinction. That is distinct from more moderen unemployment traits for Black folks. Aside from 1987 and 1998, the unemployment price for Black ladies (the dashed darkish blue line) was decrease than the speed for Black males (the stable darkish blue line) from 1980 to 2021. The most important divergence between unemployment charges for Black women and men will be seen in 2009-2011 the place Black males’s unemployment reached as excessive as 18.4% in 2010 (4.6 share factors greater than Black ladies in that 12 months), whereas Black ladies’s unemployment peaked at 14.1% in 2011 (3.7 share factors decrease than Black males in that 12 months).

Neither of those more moderen peaks replicate the peak of Black unemployment within the U.S. In 1983, Black ladies noticed an 18.6% unemployment price; Black males, 20.3%. These unemployment charges have been greater than 2.3 instances these of white men and women in 1983 (Determine 3). Whereas Black and white unemployment fell within the years following 1983, the Black-white unemployment hole didn’t. Certainly, Black males skilled unemployment charges 2.6 instances these of white males in 1989; Black ladies, 2.4 instances the unemployment price of white ladies.

The bottom unemployment price for Black folks within the U.S. will be seen in 2019, with Black males at 6.6% and Black ladies at 5.6%. Even then, nonetheless, unemployment charges for Black women and men have been roughly two instances these of white counterparts. These information show that the development of Black unemployment being double that of white unemployment has endured since 1954 and stays so, at the same time as nationwide unemployment charges fall.

black unemployment into the long run

Black men and women have labored in the US of America lengthy earlier than nationwide employment and unemployment information started being collected in 1940, however we will solely straight observe our unemployment expertise again to 1972. This weblog takes a step towards speaking what many might have already suspected: on account of systematic exclusion and discrimination of Black folks within the labor market, racism within the training system and all through U.S. society, Black women and men have endured double the unemployment charges of white women and men since at the least 1954.

Racialized and gendered inequality in employment and hiring is a type of oppression that Black folks within the U.S. have but to beat. Nonetheless, it is very important advocate for insurance policies which take away limitations to hiring, like discrimination primarily based on prior felony document, and make sure that Black employees have honest entry to protected workplaces with equal pay the place they’re handled with dignity and respect. As a result of, as Derrick Bell asserts, “Continued wrestle can result in sudden advantages and beneficial properties that in themselves justify continued endeavor. The battle in itself has that means and may give us hope for the long run.”


[1]: These information are disaggregated by intercourse into female and male classes primarily based on BLS out there information. There isn’t a third intercourse class captured by BLS. Whereas intercourse and gender are distinct ideas, the language of man and lady slightly than female and male are utilized in writing, as is in line with the work of different intersectional students.

[2]: As a result of the US consists of excess of Black and white folks, the information in Determine 1 don’t straight reply the query of what Black men and women’s unemployment was from 1954 to 1971. Nevertheless, given the shortage of extra nuanced unemployment information separated by racial class and on condition that Black folks made up 96% of the non-white inhabitants in 1950, 92% in 1960, and 90% in 1970, the “Black and different” class is used on this weblog as a unfastened proxy for Black folks’s unemployment expertise.

[3]: Whereas not proven in Determine 2, I thought of how the “Black and different” unemployment charges in comparison with that of Black folks throughout the years the place these information have been collected concurrently (1972-2002) to additional contextualize my use of the non-white information as a proxy within the earlier years. The unemployment charges of Black men and women exceeded these for non-white men and women in annually, nonetheless they have been comparable sufficient (inside 2 share factors distinction) to make this comparability within the absence of extra particular information.

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