December 8, 2021
The problem of joblessness for Black men is on average three times worse than what is generally assumed. We typically assess joblessness based on the unemployment rate, but prime-age (ages 25 to 54) Black men's employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) lags the EPOPs of prime-age white, Latinx, and Asian men by over ten percentage points. Among prime-age men, Black men's EPOP is an outlier.The white-Black EPOP jobs gap is about three times the unemployment rate jobs gap during a period of moderately high unemployment. When we use the unemployment rate to understand joblessness for Black men, we grossly underestimate the problem, the harm it causes to Black communities, and the need for bold policy interventions. If we could close the white-Black EPOP jobs gap, we could add about $30 billion annually to Black communities and make a significant reduction in Black poverty.This report calculates the white-Black unemployment rate and EPOP jobs gaps during periods of "low," "moderate," and "high" Black unemployment. Using 2014 as the year for "moderate" unemployment, the analysis finds that for Black men to have a similar EPOP to white, Latinx, and Asian men would have required 947,000 jobs, 2.8 times the number to close the unemployment rate gap.A problem with the official labor market statistics is that they do not include the Black men who are incarcerated or allow us to evaluate the economic impact of the higher mortality rate of Black men. Prime-age Black men who are incarcerated or deceased still have children, family members, and partners who, under different circumstances, could benefit from their financial support. When one takes into account the incarceration and mortality rates of Black men, the EPOP jobs gap jumps to four times the unemployment rate jobs gap, and the income deficit approaches $50 billion a year.Addressing the prime-age men's white-Black EPOP jobs gap is one important step in building up the economic health of Black communities. Among the other steps are reducing the high incarceration and mortality rates of Black men.