Has Education Paid Off for Black Workers? - Center for Economic Policy and Research

Last month, June 2013, the Center for Economic Policy and Research released a report “Has Education Paid Off for Black Workers?,” describing the stagnation and decline in black labor market-outcomes since the end of the 1970s. According to the report, the poor outcomes reflect an overall decline in workers' bargaining power, which has disproportionately affected black workers, as well as ongoing discrimination against workers of color.

By 2011, more than one in four (26.2 percent) had a college education or more. Over the same period, the share of black workers with less than a high school degree fell from almost one-third (31.6 percent) to only about one in 20 (5.3 percent). The black workforce has also grown considerably older. In 1979, the median employed black worker was 33 years old; today, the median is 39. Economists expect that increases in education and work experience will increase workers' productivity and translate into higher compensation. But, the share of black workers in a “good job” – one that pays at least $19 per hour (in inflation-adjusted 2011 dollars), has employer-provided health insurance, and an employer-sponsored retirement plan – has actually declined.


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