NYC’s Glaring Racial Disparities In Employment, Reports Center For An Urban Future

In a new Center for an Urban Future report which concludes that for New York City to achieve an equitable and inclusive economic recovery.

In addition to these workforce disparities, our study finds significant income gaps between Black and white workers in nearly every industry—not just high-paying fields, but also middle-wage fields like department stores, the postal service, warehousing and storage, and beauty salons.

To do this city policymakers will need to take strong steps to help more Black New Yorkers gain footholds—and advance—in a diverse range of industries. Our report finds that Black New Yorkers hold a shockingly small share of the jobs in a wide-array of well-paying industries in New York City—not just in finance and technology, but in creative fields, construction, business services, doctor’s offices, and manufacturing. In addition to these workforce disparities, our study finds significant income gaps between Black and white workers in nearly every industry—not just high-paying fields, but also middle-wage fields like department stores, the postal service, warehousing and storage, and beauty salons.

…even though Black New Yorkers make up 21 percent of the overall workforce and 22 percent of the city’s population. Black New Yorkers are also underrepresented in many industries with accessible, middle-wage jobs, accounting for only 10 percent of all workers in dental offices, 12 percent in doctor’s offices, 14 percent in food manufacturing, and 16 percent in construction.

The study reveals that Black New Yorkers comprise just 7 percent of the city’s workforce in advertising, 7 percent in the securities industry, 8 percent in publishing, 9 percent in computer systems design (the largest field within the tech sector), 9 percent in motion pictures and video, and 13 percent in legal services—even though Black New Yorkers make up 21 percent of the overall workforce and 22 percent of the city’s population. Black New Yorkers are also underrepresented in many industries with accessible, middle-wage jobs, accounting for only 10 percent of all workers in dental offices, 12 percent in doctor’s offices, 14 percent in food manufacturing, and 16 percent in construction.


Additionally, the report shows that the median annual income for Black New Yorkers employed in the city’s department stores is barely one-third of that of their white counterparts ($15,870 vs $44,674) while Black postal workers earn $41,261, compared to $59,277 earned by white colleagues.

Additionally, the report shows that the median annual income for Black New Yorkers employed in the city’s department stores is barely one-third of that of their white counterparts ($15,870 vs $44,674) while Black postal workers earn $41,261, compared to $59,277 earned by white colleagues. There are similarly large pay disparities between Black and white New Yorkers in the warehousing and storage industry ($25,616 vs $47,080), sporting goods stores ($18,443 vs $32,000), beauty salons ($10,474 vs $25,000), newspaper publishing ($30,500 vs $79,348), the film & tv sector ($29,321 vs $61,478), banking ($52,899 vs $123,370), and dozens of other industries.

Black workers earned more than their white counterparts in just 12 of the nearly 140 industries we analyzed for this report —and all but four of those 12 industries pay less than $39,000 annually. In 33 other industries, the gap in median incomes for Black and white workers was less than $10,000. In the remaining 92 industries, the income gap was greater than $10,000.

We find that the factors that produce these disparities are complex and pervasive, likely including persistent gaps in educational attainment by race and income—magnified by the effect of systemic racism. But no matter the scale of the challenge, we argue that closing these gaps should be among the city’s highest policy priorities and will require a dedicated and long-term response.

CUF is planning a more in-depth set of policy prescriptions, with different strategies for different industries, but our initial recommendations include:

  • Major new efforts to increase the number of Black New Yorkers who attain a postsecondary credential, with new investments to help more of those who enroll in the city’s public colleges and community colleges to succeed in earning a credential.
  • Scaling up skills-building pathways that have demonstrated success in helping to diversify growing industries, such as high-quality training for tech careers and apprenticeship programs that include—but extend beyond—the building trades.
  • Investing in work-based learning opportunities, including paid internships and career exploration initiatives.
  • Developing industry-specific strategies—with collaboration between government, industry leaders, and education and training providers—to diversify a range of higher-wage sectors. Although some promising strategies to expand access to good jobs have taken root in the tech sector—such the Tech Talent Pipeline and nonprofit training programs like Per Scholas and Pursuit—these efforts should be replicated in other parts of the economy, including creative industries and finance.

Follow the link to read the full report, titled Stark Disparities in Employment & Wages for Black New Yorkers.s op-ed in the Daily News urges Mayor de Blasio and other city leaders to develop an Automation Preparation Plan, with major new investments in up-skilling and lifelong learning.

The Creative Economy is a Key Source of Middle-Class Jobs – This insight details what city policymakers can do to sustain the creative industries and ensure more New Yorkers from low-income backgrounds can access the good-paying jobs in the creative sector.

The Center for an Urban Future (CUF) is a leading New York City-based think tank focused on expanding economic opportunity in New York. CUF also receives general operating support from The Clark Foundation and the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation. We are also grateful for support from Fisher Brothers Foundation for the Center for an Urban Future’s Middle-Class Jobs Project, and ongoing support from a number of other philanthropic funders. 

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