NOVEMBER 2013, LEHIGH VALLEY Edition of The Union News
Study suggest a ‘good job’ for black workers is hard to find
BY PAUL LEESON
REGION, October 14th- According to a study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a Washington DC based left-leaning economic think-tank, black workers today are better educated than they were three decades ago, but are still less likely to be in a ‘good job’ now than they were in 1979. The CEPR report examines the job quality of black workers in the United States and evaluates several policies that could help to reverse this trend.
“Econimists expect that increases in education and work experience will increase workers’ productivity and translate into higher compensation. But, the share of black workers in a ‘good job’ has actually declined,” stated Janelle Jones, a co-author of the report. The report defined a ‘good job’ as one that pays at least $19 per hour (the inflation-adjusted median wage for male workers in 1979), has employer-provided health insurance, and has some type of employer-sponsored retirement plan.
The report “Has Education Paid Off for Black Workers?,” describes the stagnation and decline in black labor market-outcomes since the end of the 1970s. According to the report, the poor outcomes reflect an overall decline in workers’ bargaining power, which has disproportionately affected black workers, as well as ongoing discrimination against workers of color.
In 1979, just one-in-ten black workers had a four-year college degree or more. By 2011, one-in-four black workers was a college graduate. There was also a large drop in the share of black workers without a high school degree, falling from almost one-third in 1979 to just one-in-twenty in 2011.
The black workforce is also older today than in 1979. At the end of the 70s, the median age of the employed black worker was 33, today the median age is 39 years old.
“Over the last three decades, black workers have made an enormous, often unrecognized, investment in upgrading their education and work skills, but the economy has turned against workers across the board, leaving even college-educated black workers with little to show for these investments,” added Ms. Jones.
The CEPR report suggest that while the share of ‘good jobs’ in the economy as a whole has also fallen, the drop among black workers has been significant, especially for black males. Between 1979 and 2011, the share of black men in good jobs fell from 26.4 percent to 20.9 percent. While the share of black women in good jobs did rise from 14.5 percent in 1979 to 18.4 percent in 2011 but black women are still less likely to have a good job than black men. The erosion of the value of the minimum wage and the decline in unionization rates was also found to contribute to the lack of good jobs within the black workforce.
The study researchers found that black workers at every age and education level are less likely to be in a good job today than they were in 1979 and are less likely to be in a good job than comparable white workers.