Joblessness & Race

“Is there anything that can be done to bridge the jobless rate gap between African Americans and Whites?”

Since the 1940s the lengthy unemployment lines of African Americans have run like train tracks compared to those of their Whites counterparts.

 

 

 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • African Americans unemployment remained high during 2011 at 15.8%
  • For whites the rate stayed steady at 7.9%.

For many decades economists, statisticians, historians and sociologists have all asked the same question:

Why is there such a huge gap in the jobless rate among Blacks compared to Whites?

The jobless rate among Blacks has been considered a serious problem in the African American community as well as a hindrance to well-educated African Americans who graduate from prestigious universities seeking jobs.

Despite a reduction in the wage gap between Caucasians and Blacks due to a surge in the number of college educated African Americans over the decades, a widening unemployment gap still exists between the two races. Education does help to bridge the gap but the numbers prove that it is not a fix.

And the question about the disparity of jobless rates between Blacks and Caucasians remains unanswered.

One viable theory is the high incarceration rate among African Americans, especially males.

According to the US Census Bureau, African Americans make up only 13% of the US population, but make up approximately 40.2% of the prison population.

The incarceration rate plays a vital role may explain the reason there is such a huge gap between the unemployment rate of African Americans and Whites. With such a high percentage of blacks in prison it automatically shrinks the number of blacks capable of working, which thus increases the rate of joblessness.

Furthermore, even with the number of ex-convicts who enter the workforce each year, studies have shown that white ex-cons are far more likely to be hired than black ones.

The American Economic Review reported on a field experiment done on labor market discrimination that found that job applicants with black-sounding names (Lakisha and Jamal) are 50% less likely to receive callbacks than applicants with white-sounding names (Emily and Greg). While there are many African Americans who have accomplished resumes, they still face interviewers who wrestle with “the race card.”

According to Brian Miller, executive director of United for Fair Economy, “We have a long history of discriminatory policies and practices… that have prevented people of color from building up personal wealth.”

However, it is difficult to judge the degree to which “the race card” infiltrates every aspect of the job search process for African Americans.

So, we come to the million-dollar question:

Is there anything that can be done to bridge the jobless rate gap between African Americans and Whites?

This subtle form of discrimination has been occurring over the decades, and has been very difficult to prove or to deal with, because many interviewers and employers who discriminate against African Americans do not realize that they are actually committing the act because they feel that their decision is solely based on gut feelings.

In addition, watchdog groups reporting on this type of discrimination is unlikely to solve the problem because anti-discrimination laws mainly depend on the person who is being discriminated against to sound the alarm.

It is nearly impossible for job applicants who are African Americans to know if they are being discriminated against (unless they are mind readers). This often leads to an under reporting of potential incidents.

Evidently, to fix any problem one needs to have first hand knowledge. Knowledge the American society has yet to gain.

A suggested fix:

Have our political leaders invest federal funds into programs that are geared towards hiring black workers or offering payroll tax credit.

However, the fear is that the focus of our leaders will turn away from the issue and spark disagreement over how much to invest or how much to cut.

Sadly, this permanent problem and huge disparity in the jobless rate of African Americans will forever remain a gloomy issue with little or no solution.

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