Unemployment

Racial disparities in national unemployment rates

For decades the African-American unemployment rate nationally has hovered at about twice that of white and Asian people, and somewhat higher than the rate for Latinx people. The high unemployment rate helps to explain the high poverty percentages, and plays an important role in suppressing accumulated household wealth.

Racial disparities in unemployment rates in Ithaca and Tompkins County

…in 2016 the unemployment rate in Tompkins County was the lowest of any county in New York State. Yet African-American unemployment locally still fluctuates at 2 to 3 times that of whites.

Ithaca and Tompkins County unemployment rates, overall, are lower than those of New York State, and in 2016 the unemployment rate in Tompkins County was the lowest of any county in New York State. Yet African-American unemployment locally still fluctuates at 2 to 3 times that of whites.

Source: American Community Survey, Table S2301.

In 2012- 2016, a period that includes the effects of the Great Recession, Black households in Tompkins County had a 2.8 times higher unemployment rate than whites.

Earlier data show that the gap between black and white unemployment expands substantially during economic downturns, which is likely to be linked to structural racism, in the form of discriminatory hiring and firing practices.

Understanding the disparities

While these gaps are not, in themselves, conclusive evidence of  structural racism, they are consistent with all the other economic indicators, and with the frequently reported history of discrimination in hiring. In one famous study of racial discrimination in hiring, researchers responded with fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers, with each resume assigned either a very African American sounding name or a very white sounding name. The white names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews than black names. In addition, a higher quality resume elicited 30 percent more callbacks for White names, whereas for African Americans, it elicited a far smaller increase. The amount of discrimination was uniform across occupations and industries and Federal contractors and employers who listed “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their ad discriminated just as much as other employers.