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Brookings Now

Charts of the Week: Earnings and unemployment gaps by race

In this Charts of the Week, some data from research on the wages, earnings, and unemployment gaps by race.

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“America’s essential workforce deserves a raise,” argue Molly Kinder and Laura Stateler. In their analysis, they note that essential workers are nearly half of all workers in occupations with a median wage below $15/hour, and also that “Black and brown workers are overrepresented among the nearly 19 million frontline essential workers in occupations with a median wage less than $15 an hour, half of whom are nonwhite.” Raising the federal minimum wage, Kinder and Stateler write, would disproportionately benefit these workers, “who too often are denied decent-paying work.”

In their piece on the challenges facing Black men, Richard Reeves, Sarah Nzau, and Ember Smith explain that “Black workers—regardless of gender—earn less than white workers, and white men have substantially out-earned white women and Black workers since 1980.” The data show that Black men earn $378 less per week than white men, and $125 less than white women. “Breaking the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage for Black boys and men,” they argue, “requires first a deeper understanding the gendering of their race—and the racialization of their gender—and second, a battery of specifically tailored policy interventions: a New Deal for Black Men, no less.”

Unemployment by race or ethnicityAaron Klein and Ember Smith compared the economic impacts of COVID-19 in three cities negatively impacted (Las Vegas, Orlando, and Reno, which specialize in hospitality and leisure) to three that were not as much (technology hubs Seattle and San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., which specializes in government). “COVID-19, which devastated some industries like leisure and hospitality, barely impacted others,” they write, and where it did hit hard, Hispanic or Latino workers were particularly harmed. Read more to learn about their policy recommendations.

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