By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
The wage gap is a well-known topic that spans genders and ethnicities, but its not the only thing. Employment rates for African Americans are low, especially when compared to their white counterparts and the Center for American Progress looked into the reason why.
Earlier this week, the Center for American Progress published an article titled “African Americans Face Systematic Obstacles to Getting Good Jobs”, written by Christian E. Weller. The article focused on the widening gap between African Americans and whites when it comes to employment and wealth.
According to the press release, “Prior to the recession, Black families had on average one-fourth the total wealth of white families. Now, Black families have one-fifth the wealth of white families.”
In the article, Weller noted that over the past 109 months the U.S. has experienced an increase in job growth and employment, but that doesn’t necessarily apply for everyone. Weller explained that historically, African Americans face more obstacles when it comes to employment and it’s a trend that continues today.
According to Weller, those obstacles include: “Repeated violent oppression of African Americans…codified segregation, legal racial terrorism during the almost century long period from Reconstruction to the civil rights era, systematic exclusions of African Americans from better-paying jobs and continued occupational segregation.”
He noted that when the recession hit, African American workers felt the impact sooner than white workers because of a trend called “last hired, first fired.” Because African Americans are hired last due to the aforementioned obstacles, they are the first to be let go when the economy takes a dip.
Black women especially struggle to find employment even though they are more likely to work than white women, Weller wrote. Furthermore, black women are paid less than their white female and male counterparts, but 80 percent of women are the primary or co-breadwinners for their families.
Weller explained how wealth can play a role in closing the labor market gaps. If African American families had more wealth from the start, it would be easier to invest in their future or that of their children. Money can buy an education, a business loan, a house and more.
Wealth would also make it easier to move to a neighborhood where employment is on the rise or make it possible to buy a car to get to work. However, the wage gap and discriminatory labor force make it more difficult.
“The systematic discrimination that African Americans face in the labor market make it even more difficult for Black families to build wealth, while increasing their need for savings,” Weller said.
He added that stable and well-paying jobs are important, but not enough to unroot the systemic and racial wealth gap. Weller said that policymakers need to tackle the issue and recognize that it’s a complicated problem that goes beyond a quick and easy solution.