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

Insights & Analyses

  • Although unemployment among white people and people of color have followed a similar trend between 1980 and 2010, the unemployment rate for people of color has been consistently higher by roughly 5 percentage points. In 2020, the gap decreased to 3 percentage points.
  • Unemployment is highest in states such as Alaska and Mississippi. Among cities, unemployment is highest in Detroit, MI and Cleveland, OH.
  • Black people and Native Americans have the highest unemployment rates among all racial and ethnic groups identified by the census. Asian Americans and white people have the lowest unemployment rates.
  • Since 1990, Native Americans have consistently experienced the highest rates of unemployment. In 2020, 10 percent of Native American men and 8 percent of Native American women are unemployed. Within Native Americans, people with Tohono O'Odham ancestry and people with Other Alaskan Native ancestry face unemployment at 18 percentage points.

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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