Monday, June 9, 2008

Decline in U.S. Manufacturing Hurts African Americans Disproportionately

John Schmitt

John Schmitt is a senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He has written extensively on economic inequality, unemployment, the new economy, the welfare state, and other topics for both academic and popular audiences. He has also worked as a consultant for national and international organizations including the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, the Global Policy Network, the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, and others.

Schmitt's research has focused primarily on inequality in the US labor market and the role of labor-market institutions in explaining international differences in economic performance, particularly between the United States and Europe. Schmitt has co-authored (with Lawrence Mishel and Jared Bernstein) three editions of The State of Working America (Cornell University Press). He has also contributed to The American Prospect, The Boston Review, Challenge, The Guardian, The International Herald Tribune, The Washington Post, and other newspapers and magazines.
Washington DC -- African-American workers have been particularly hard hit by the decline in U.S. manufacturing, according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). In 1979, almost one-in-four black workers in the United States had a manufacturing job. Today, fewer than one-in-ten black workers are in manufacturing.

The report, in PDF format "The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Manufacturing, 1979-2007," by senior economist John Schmitt and senior research associate Ben Zipperer, details the simultaneous sharp decline in both black employment in manufacturing and the unionization rates of black workers.

"Manufacturing jobs, particularly unionized jobs in the auto industry, were an important part of what built the black middle class after World War II," said John Schmitt, a co-author of the report.

Today, only 15.7 percent of all black workers are union members or covered by a union contract at their workplace. Twenty-five years ago, that share was 31.7 percent. Part of the reason for the decline in unionization among African Americans is the decline in U.S. manufacturing. But even within manufacturing, unionization rates have been falling. On average, manufacturing workers are now no more likely to be in a union than workers in the rest of the economy.

The study, which analyzed data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, found that the share of African Americans in manufacturing jobs fell from 23.9 percent in 1979 to 9.8 percent last year. From 1983 to 2007, unionization rates among African Americans dropped from 31.7 to 15.7 percent. Unionization rates also dropped among whites (from 22.2 to 13.5 percent) and Hispanics (24.2 to 10.8 percent) during the same period, but the declines were not as steep as those for African Americans. ###

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. CEPR's Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

Contact: Alan Barber, 202-293-5380 x115 WEB: Center for Economic and Policy Research 1611 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20009 | 202-293-5380

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