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Clinging to Jacob’s Ladder

by admin on 25th-November-2015

S. E. Williams

jacobs_ladder

The impact of eroding public sector jobs on Black Americans and Women –Part 3, Pay parity and Upward mobility

As America navigated its way through the worst recession in a generation, public sector jobs eroded and along with them, opportunities for career advancement and promotions especially for minorities and women.

There is no question African Americans and women benefitted from the federal prohibitions against discrimination in employment secured during the Civil Rights era. Anti discrimination policies and Equal Employment Opportunity mandates supported public employment opportunities that during the last five decades has afforded expanded opportunities for African Americans and women to not only attain financial independence; but, also experience real opportunities for career advancement and promotions.

To this community, the public sector was and continues to be the single, largest and most important source of employment not only in the state of California but across the nation.

A 2011 study by the University of California Berkeley reported during the period 2008-2010, 21.2 percent of all African American workers were employed in the public sector—compared to only 16.3 percent of non Black workers. Both before and since the Great Recession, African Americans were 30 percent more likely than others to be employed in public sector jobs.

Access to public sector employment opportunities has also afforded African American men and women opportunities to earn wages significantly higher than they would have in the public sector. Results show the wage gap between Black and White workers, though still discouraging, is lower in the public sector than in the overall economy.

Beyond the greater success African Americans experience finding employment in the public sector as chronicled in Part 1 of this series; and, the wage advantages African Americans experience in the public sector as detailed in Part 2; public sector employment has also provided ladders of opportunity for career advancement and promotion. However, as the ranks of African American public sector employees were scaled back in recent years, career advancement and promotional opportunities were proportionately impacted.

It is no secret Black public sector employees lost jobs at a higher rate than Whites during the Great Recession. This reality would suggest African Americans who attained management and/or administrative positions at either the federal, state or local levels of government before the economic downturn, probably experienced a similar fate—being in management does not make African Americans immune to the old maxim ‘last hired first fired’.

A report by the non-profit Urban Institute (Institute) revealed that although African Americans were historically underrepresented in high-wage government jobs and overrepresented in low-wage government jobs—since the 1980s they have actually gained proportional representation in high-wage jobs on a national level. The Institute also confirmed the same held true for most large metro areas throughout the country with the exception of the mid-west.

Despite the loss of public sector jobs (many of which were never regained after the recession); despite the loss of other public sector jobs owed to outsourcing or contracting overseas; the public sector still offers more opportunity for African Americans, women and other minorities to climb the professional ladder when compared to opportunities in the public sector.

Although there are positives to public sector employment, roadblocks still exist in relation to total work parity. According to the Racial Equity Alliance, in 2015 African Americans (and Latinos) lag behind Whites for higher-paying jobs at the largest rate in nearly ten years.

Believe it or not, African Americans and Latinos with four-year college degrees actually fare worse. African Americans with Bachelor’s degrees still earn only about 78 percent of the salary of similarly educated Whites while Latinos with Bachelors degree earn roughly 75 percent of the salary of similarly educated Whites.

The Racial Equity Alliance also highlighted how the wage earnings for African American and Latina women have dropped below 1998 averages. In 1998, according to the Alliance, African American and Latina women earned only 65 and 55 percent, respectively, of the earnings of White men. Sadly, today reality in the workplace is even worse. African American and Latina women earn only 62 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by White men compared to 77 cents for White women.

Category: Feature Stories.
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