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Is the Black-White Unemployment Gap Widening?

black unemployment vs white unemployment

There has been a lot of talks lately about the widening black-white unemployment gap. While both groups have seen their rates increase in recent years, their gap has only grown wider. So what’s behind this trend, and what can be done to address it? This post will take a closer look at the data and explore some possible explanations for why this is happening. Stay tuned for more insights.

How has black unemployment increased?

In a recent article from the black news and opinion website, The Root, titled ” Is the Unemployment Gap Widening? Black Unemployment Rates Are Higher Than White Unemployment Rates by Far “, writer Terrell Starr examines the black unemployment rates, which are higher than those for their white counterparts.

This article also touches upon how black unemployment has increased since the Great Recession. Starr remarks that black-on-black crime seems to be more of an issue than black unemployment in today’s society but argues that black leaders should not speak about black unemployment rates during their speeches and public declarations.

The author then mentions that one of Mr. Barack Obama’s first events as president was to travel to Cairo, Egypt, on June 4th, 2009, and deliver a speech to the Muslim world. During that speech, Obama discusses poverty and black unemployment:

“All of us share this common humanity, and all of us owe our children a better future. That is why we have a responsibility to lift up those who are vulnerable, and reform our societies so that more people can enjoy the freedom and dignity that their citizens should expect.”

The article suggests black unemployment is far too important an issue to ignore as black leaders such as Al Sharpton continue with their speeches on black-on-black crime. As black communities nationwide struggle with black unemployment rates soaring at double the rate for whites, black leaders need to step up in order to educate black America on how they can fight black unemployment.

The Root is a black news and opinion website that also discusses black-on-black crime among other black issues. Terrell Starr, the author of “Is the Unemployment Gap Widening? Black Unemployment Rates Are Higher Than White Unemployment Rates by Far”, is a senior staff writer for The Root.

Terrell Starr is a senior staff writer for The Root, where he covers black news and black issues such as black unemployment. In this article from The Root, titled ” Is the Unemployment Gap Widening? Black Unemployment Rates Are Higher Than White Unemployment Rates by Far “, Starr’s main argument is that black unemployment rates are higher than white ones far which leads him to conclude so in his title. 

He first discusses black unemployment rates in general, after which he mentions black-on-black crime seems to be more of an issue than black unemployment in today’s society. After mentioning black unemployment during the Great Recession, he mentions how Barack Obama had visited Cairo on June 4th, 2009, and discussed black issues such as poverty and black unemployment, which Starr calls unmentioned by black leaders. Finally, he mostly discusses black unemployment but also mentions black adoption, among other things.

Black Unemployment vs. White Unemployment

Black unemployment and white unemployment are both forms of employment status, but they differ in how these statuses are calculated and how much they vary from each other. Unemployment for black Americans is defined as those who do not have a job yet actively seek one. Those considered unemployed may or may not receive any benefits such as welfare payments. 

On the other hand, White unemployment represents those without a job and includes those who have stopped looking for work altogether. Black-white differences in unemployment rates carry implications for racial inequality because blacks consistently experience more adverse consequences along with high rates.

Black vs. White Unemployment Rates

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average annual U3 unemployment rate between 2008 and 2012 of 10% for black workers, compared with 6.7% for white workers. Unemployment rates vary considerably by gender, age, education level, and sub-region or state of residence. The official unemployment rate is based on individuals that are not working but have actively looked for a job in the past four weeks, as opposed to what the BLS classifies as “marginally attached” workers. 

It includes discouraged workers—those who are not looking because they believe no jobs are available for them—and other “temporarily disconnected” individuals who want work and are available for employment but have not searched for work recently. Although the denominator in this calculation is formed by all persons in the labor force ages sixteen years and older (roughly the civilian noninstitutionalized population), blacks are substantially underrepresented in this group.

Aside from unemployment, significant disparities arise when looking at other measures of labor market status. Compared with whites, a higher percentage of black men are neither employed nor looking for work—a group sometimes referred to as “discouraged workers” or the “missing unemployed.” Furthermore, these discouraged workers have become relatively less prevalent since 2000. 

This trend holds across all education levels but is most pronounced among the less educated. Among women, black and Hispanic women are more likely than white women not to be in the labor force (they are outside of the potential workforce). These patterns matter because out-of-work individuals who want to work are more likely to apply for, accept, and stay in jobs than those who are not employed.

Black-white differences in unemployment rates persist across the business cycle—that is, they do not narrow during economic expansions. This finding suggests that black unemployment tends to be structural, meaning that it originates from sources other than fluctuations in demand associated with the business cycle. 

Thus, even if aggregate demand rebounded substantially, black unemployment may remain elevated given that these problems originate outside of the labor market itself (for example, hiring discrimination; residential segregation; unequal access to quality education; fragmented local labor markets; and law, custom, and prejudice).


The black unemployment rate has been consistently higher than the white unemployment rate, but is this gap widening? We don’t have enough evidence to say. But what we do know for sure is that blacks are still struggling with employment discrimination and racial bias in hiring practices. 

This creates a vicious cycle where people of color will continue to face barriers if they can’t find work, leading them back into poverty and making it harder for them to get hired again. It’s time we address these issues head-on so everyone can live up to their full potential without facing prejudice or racism along the way.

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