Employment: In an equitable economy, everyone who wants to work would have a good job. 

Insights & Analyses

  • Black and Native American residents of working age have less access to employment opportunities and the highest rates of joblessness at 29 percent and 38 percent respectively.
  • Between 1980 and 2020, the labor force participation rate for all workers combined increased from 73 percent to 79 percent, but remained about the same for Native American workers, rising by only one percentage point (from 67 to 68 percent).
  • The labor force participation rate for women has remained below that of men since 1990, but the gap has been closing. In 2020, Latina women had a labor force participation rate of 69 percent, compared to 88 percent for Latino men.
  • The employment-to-population ratio for Latinx immigrants increased from 59 percent to 75 percent between 2000 and 2020. In 2020 US-born Black and Native Americans adults had the lowest employment-to-population ratios at 70 percent and 62 percent respectively.

Drivers of Inequity

A variety of historical and contemporary factors cause Black, Native American, Latinx, and other workers of color to experience unemployment at much higher rates than White workers. Employer discrimination against Black workers has not improved in 25 years: among workers with the same resumes, White applicants receive 36 percent more callbacks than Black applicants and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinx people. In addition, racial segregation and disinvestment mean that students of color have far less access to well-resourced, high-quality schools. Transportation, affordable childcare and housing near job centers, and credit checks are also significant barriers to employment. Finally, racist policing practices and criminal legal system disproportionately incarcerate Black and Latinx men who then face employer discrimination due to their criminal records.


Grow an equitable economy: Policies to reach full employment for all

Strategy in Action

The City of Durham increases hiring of people with criminal records. After the City of Durham, North Carolina passed a "ban-the-box" policy in 2011, the proportion of new hires with a criminal record increased from 2 percent to over 15 percent in just three years, with no increase in workplace crimes. The policy removes questions about prior convictions from job applications, allowing an applicant to present his or her qualifications first. As of today, 35 states and over 150 cities have adopted a ban-the-box or fair-chance policy for public employers while 13 states and 18 cities have extended these policies to include private employers as well. In 2015, 19 major US companies pledged to ban the box under the White House's Fair Chance Business Pledge. Read more.

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