Press Release Black Unemployment EEOC Inequality Jobs United States

The Continuing Power of White Preferences in Employment

August 01, 2023

Contact: Kelsey Moore, 8623241213Mail_Outline

Washington, DC — In a new report published today, the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s (CEPR’s) Algernon Austin illustrates the ongoing racial discrimination against Black people in employment, or, as he puts it, “the continuing power of White preferences in the labor market.” 

By investigating a range of group comparisons, ranging from educational attainment to city of residence, the report reveals that White people as a group always have better employment outcomes than similar Black people. Austin looked at the following categories, and found that White preferences persisted across them: veterans, people with disabilities, people who are formerly incarcerated, foreign-born people all fare better in finding employment if they are White, and even when educational attainment, skills, and city of residence are the same, Black job-seekers do worse. 

Some striking key takeaways can be found below:

  • From 2000 to 2022, in 14 out of 23 years, the overall Black unemployment rate was higher than the rate for White high school dropouts.
  • Across five different categories of college majors, the Black unemployment rates are double the respective White rates. 
  • The Black teen unemployment rate is nearly double the White rate. Even when employers have little or no skill requirements, they still prefer White candidates.
  • The White-Black unemployment disparity is much larger within Chicago, New York, and the District of Columbia than in the nation overall.

“For the sake of obtaining employment, if one had to choose between being a White high school dropout or a random Black person, the correct choice would be to be a White high school dropout,” said Austin. 

Some of these outcomes can be attributed to overt anti-Black attitudes, while others to the more covert form of discrimination that results from hiring within White social networks. To address these trends, the U.S. needs stronger anti-discrimination enforcement, a Federal Reserve committed to achieving maximum employment, and a national, subsidized employment program targeted to high-unemployment communities. None of these policy solutions can stand alone, but rather can work alongside one another to close the White-Black unemployment gap. 

“The Continuing Power of White Preferences in Employment” can be read here


Support Cepr

If you value CEPR's work, support us by making a financial contribution.