WASHINGTON — The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) today released a new economic report that documents for the first time the severe disparity in historical job quality for Black and Hispanic workers compared to the national average for all U.S. workers. The report, “Quantifying Job Quality for U.S., Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Workers,” calculates the Job Quality Index (JQI) of Black, Hispanic, and Asian American workers from 2007 to 2020.
The JQI is an economic indicator that measures job quality by calculating the ratio of low-quality jobs to high-quality jobs, based on weekly wages for each of the 175 sectors in the U.S. economy. The total U.S. JQI for April 2021 was 81.99. The JQI is a production of CPA in partnership with economists from Cornell University. For further information on the JQI, visit www.jobqualityindex.com.
The new CPA report shows that, despite rising incomes, Black American job quality since 2007 has declined from 41.2 to 38.7 — more than 40 points below the total U.S. JQI — with 28 percent of Black American nonsupervisory workers holding a high-quality job. The JQI for Hispanic Americans was 29.5 in 2007, and rose to 38.1 in 2020. Although a 29 percent increase, this is still at a level that remains well below the national average of all U.S. workers with just 28 percent of Hispanic Americans holding high-quality jobs. The JQI for Asian Americans was substantially higher than the U.S. total JQI in 2007 at 95.3, and has since risen to 158.3 in 2020 — meaning that 61 percent of Asian American workers were in high-quality jobs.
“This new report from the CPA Economics Team documents for the first time in a rigorous sector-by-sector analysis the declining job quality of Black and Hispanic American workers in the U.S. since 2007,” said CPA Chief Economist Jeff Ferry. “By looking at average weekly hours as well as hourly wages, we are able to see the fall in weekly pay and the declining living standards of many American workers, with people of color suffering the most. As the Biden administration and Congress craft policies to create good-paying jobs and reshore critical industries, this new report highlights the importance of creating high-quality jobs to address racial inequity of this disparity in job quality among American workers.”
“The economic data from this new CPA report shows that Black and Hispanic American workers have suffered the most from deindustrialization and the hollowing out of America’s manufacturing base,” said Michael Stumo, CEO of CPA. “For decades, Wall Street and multinational corporations have offshored good-paying American jobs and our nation’s industrial capacity to countries like China. While this may have boosted financial profits and senior management bonuses, it is clear that it has also had a devastating impact on communities of color. To address the severe disparity in job quality, the Biden administration and Congress should embrace policies to reshore industry and jobs throughout America — especially in minority communities.”
Read “Quantifying Job Quality for U.S., Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Workers” here.
- Black American job quality is far worse than that of the total population. The Black Job Quality Index (JQI) for 2020 was 38.7, more than 40 points below the JQI for the total U.S. private sector production and nonsupervisory workforce. For the Black nonsupervisory workforce, 72% of their jobs are low quality, and only 28% rank as high-quality. More than any other group, Black Americans are paying the price for the decline in U.S. job quality in recent decades.
- The JQI for Hispanic Americans was 38.1 in 2020, 42 points below the U.S. JQI. In 2002, 28% of Hispanic American employees held high-quality jobs and 72% were in low-quality employment. Although far below the U.S. JQI, the Hispanic American JQI rose by 29% since 2007, when it was just 29.5. The increase in the Hispanic American JQI was driven largely by the growth of Hispanic jobs in high-quality health care and construction service jobs.
- The Asian American JQI began the period well above the total U.S. figure and rose further, to reach 158.3 in 2020. At that level, 61% of Asian American employees were in high-quality jobs, with just 29% in low-quality. The high and rising Asian American JQI was driven by high-quality professional business service, health care, and finance/insurance jobs.
- The U.S. Private Sector Job Quality Index measures job quality as determined by weekly income for U.S. production and nonsupervisory workers. The JQI shows that the U.S. creates millions more low-quality jobs than high-quality jobs each year. The JQI for December 2020 was 80.5, indicating that 55% of nonsupervisory workers worked in low-quality jobs, and only 45% in high-quality. The JQI was even lower in February 2020 at 75.8. The pandemic eliminated many more low-wage than high-wage jobs from the economy, paradoxically raising the JQI. By April 2021, about two thirds of those jobs had returned.
- Despite rising incomes for many Americans since 2007, Black Americans are not getting their fair share. Job growth for Black Americans since 2007 has been concentrated in low-quality jobs, notably in service sector jobs such as food service and social assistance. The slow growth in high-quality jobs since 2007, including a decline in many manufacturing sectors, has made it more difficult for Black and Hispanic Americans to gain access to these jobs.
- The JQIs for Black and Hispanic Americans reflect the economic inequality faced by these groups. The combination of more low-quality than high-quality jobs and the sectoral shift from manufacturing to service sector jobs has had a disproportionate effect on Black and Hispanic Americans, reflected in their low JQIs.
- The problem of declining job quality has been greatly exacerbated by the growth of low-quality service sector jobs. Although the U.S. economy has created millions of jobs in the years before the pandemic and in the first quarter of 2021, too many of these jobs, in industries like food service and social assistance, are often low-wage and low-hour. These pay levels are often insufficient to raise a family, and often the people taking those jobs are suffering declining living standards as compared to their previous employment.
- Policy initiatives to address the inequality of Black and Hispanic Americans suffering from much lower job quality than the total American population include supporting high-wage industries, notably manufacturing. These industries offer the best opportunity for Black and Hispanic Americans, who have relatively less educational qualifications than other Americans, to find high-quality jobs capable of supporting middle class lifestyles. Established policy objectives, including increased educational opportunities and reduced job discrimination, have an important role to play. But the importance of the sectoral mix of job opportunities, and the dominance of low-quality job growth in recent decades, is often overlooked.