Feb 1, 2022 - Economy

Black workers hard hit by decades of globalization

Share of Black workers in U.S. workforce
Reproduced from Economic Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

As the nation marks Black History Month, a look back at the history of globalization reveals economic and racial inequities that still reverberate.

Why it matters: Black Americans have been disproportionately affected by the manufacturing sector’s contraction.

  • Among median-wage, non-college-educated employees, Black workers earn $5,000 more per year in manufacturing jobs than in other roles.

Driving the news: Black workers lost 646,500 manufacturing jobs from 1998 to 2020, wiping out more than 30% of their employment in the sector, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Black Americans went from 10.6% of the industry’s positions at their peak to 10.2% in 2020.

Many of those higher-paying jobs have disappeared as production shifted overseas.

  • “The loss of jobs offering good wages and superior benefits in manufacturing has narrowed a once viable pathway to the middle class, particularly for workers of color — who represent a disproportionate share of those without a college degree,” according to the EPI report.

Ripple effects: The job losses have had a “spiral effect” on communities with a high percentage of people of color by undermining their tax bases, report co-author Valerie Wilson tells Axios.

  • “The jobs that were growing and newly available were not the same quality of jobs that were lost,” Wilson says, noting that low-paying service-sector positions have proliferated.

What’s next: EPI is calling for an investment in infrastructure and climate-change-related programs to boost U.S. exports and pair it with policies that “help ensure that workers of color and women can access these jobs.”

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