Category Archives: Inequality

The Retail Race Divide: How the Retail Industry Is Perpetuating Racial Inequality in the 21st Century

Source: Catherine Ruetschlin, Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, NAACP & Dēmos, 2015

From the summary:
This paper examines the differences in retail workers’ occupations, earnings, and schedules to reveal how employment in the retail industry fails to meet the needs of the Black and Latino workforce and, as a result, perpetuates racial inequality. Consistent disparities in labor market outcomes demonstrate the failure of markets to advance racial equity since the 1960s, even after decades of equality in law. As one of the largest sources of new employment in the US economy, and the second-largest industry for Black employment in the country, the problems of occupational segregation, low pay, unstable schedules, and involuntary part-time work among Black and Latino retail staff point to an important chance for employers to make a real impact on racial inequality by paying living wages and offering stable, adequate hours for all retail workers.

• Black retail workers share the attributes of the overall retail workforce, but face worse outcomes. …..
• Retail employers sort Black and Latino retail workers into lower-paid positions and away from supervisory roles. …..
• A racial wage divide exists in the front-line retail salesforce. …..
• Black and Latino workers face greater costs associated with part-time and “just-in-time” scheduling. …..
• Retailers have an opportunity to make changes that will reduce racial disparities and improve living standards overall. …..

Racial Inequality Trends and the Intergenerational Persistence of Income and Family Structure

Source: Deirdre Bloome, American Sociological Review, Vol. 79 no. 6, December 2014
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From the abstract:
Racial disparity in family incomes remained remarkably stable over the past 40 years in the United States despite major legal and social reforms. Previous scholarship presents two primary explanations for persistent inequality through a period of progressive change. One highlights continuity: because socioeconomic status is transmitted from parents to children, disparities created through histories of discrimination and opportunity denial may dissipate slowly. The second highlights change: because family income results from joining individual earnings in family units, changing family compositions can offset individuals’ changing economic chances. I examine whether black-white family income inequality trends are better characterized by the persistence of existing disadvantage (continuity) or shifting forms of disadvantage (change). I combine cross-sectional and panel analysis using Current Population Survey, Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Census, and National Vital Statistics data. Results suggest that African Americans experience relatively extreme intergenerational continuity (low upward mobility) and discontinuity (high downward mobility); both helped maintain racial inequality. Yet, intergenerational discontinuities allow new forms of disadvantage to emerge. On net, racial inequality trends are better characterized by changing forms of disadvantage than by continuity. Economic trends were equalizing but demographic trends were disequalizing; as family structures shifted, family incomes did not fully reflect labor-market gains

Public Sector Unions and the Poor

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, OnLabor Blog, Guest Post, July 22, 2014

…Of the ten states with the highest public sector unionization rates, seven have poverty rates below or at the national average. Of the ten states with the lowest public sector unionization rates, meanwhile, seven have above-average poverty levels. Is this decisive evidence that strong public sector unions cause lower poverty? Of course not. But it’s certainly not the pattern one would expect to see if public sector unions increased the cost and reduced the availability of services to the poor. Other research is more dispositive: in a comprehensive statistical examination of what causes household poverty in the U.S., sociologist David Brady and his colleagues find that two key predictors of lower poverty is state-level unionization and working in the public sector. … Additional research points to the critical role public sector expansion and public sector unionization have on reducing racial inequality. Andrew Strom highlighted the historic Civil Rights drive to organize sanitation workers in Memphis. The connections between government unionization and African-Americans extend well beyond that campaign. … Recent privatization of governmental services has hurt African-American workers more than others, helping to reverse hard-fought gains. ….
When Unionization Disappears: State-Level Unionization and Working Poverty in the United States
Source: David Brady, Regina S. Baker, and Ryan Finnigan, American Sociological Review, Vol. 78 no. 5, October 2013 (subscription required)

What Do We Really Know About Racial Inequality? Labor Markets, Politics, and the Historical Basis of Black Economic Fortunes
Source: William Sites, Virginia Parks, Politics & Society, Vol. 39 no. 1, March 2011

Public Sector Unions — Some History and Economics
Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor Blog, Guest Post, July 18, 2014
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Privatization and Racial Inequality

Source: Vincent J. Roscigno, George Wilson, Contexts, Vol. 13 no. 1, Winter 2014

Unintended Consequences: Medicaid Expansion and Racial Inequality in Access to Health Insurance

Source: Christina Andrews, Health & Social Work, Advance Access, First published online: June 20, 2014
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From the extract:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (P.L. 111–148), commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has sparked dramatic change in health care in the United States. It has an ambitious and far-reaching agenda: to improve the accessibility, quality, and cost-effectiveness of health care and prevention services in United States. Among the most significant policy changes within the ACA is expansion of Medicaid, the nation’s major public insurance program for low-income citizens. The ACA eliminated categorical restrictions on Medicaid eligibility that have traditionally limited enrollment to parents, children, the elderly, and disabled people. As a consequence, any citizen who meets income eligibility criteria, regardless of age, health, or parental status, qualifies for Medicaid. As the ACA was originally designed, approximately 17 million people would become eligible for the program—34 percent of the 50 million uninsured (Congressional Budget Office, 2012). This revision of eligibility requirements represents the greatest expansion of Medicaid in its history and marked a major victory of advocates for expanded health insurance coverage for the poor.

Yet, the promise of expanded insurance access for low-income Americans through Medicaid has only been partially realized. The ACA—and the Medicaid expansion it established—came under attack as soon as it was enacted. Within hours of the legislation’s passage, several states filed constitutional challenges to the law with the U.S. Supreme Court. These challenges were considered by the court in June 2012 in the National Federation of Independent Business vs. Sebelius case (SCOTUSblog, 2012). One of several major objections voiced by the plaintiffs was regarding Medicaid expansion: The plaintiffs argued that it was unduly coercive to require states to expand Medicaid or lose federal matching funds for their current Medicaid enrollees. In their final decision, the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs on this point, ruling that it …

How the Decline of Unions Has Increased Racial Inequality

Source: Meredith Kleykamp and Jake Rosenfeld, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, August 2013

By 1980, the wages earned by African-American women and white women came close to being equal, but since then the gap has nearly tripled. Meanwhile, average wages for African-American men stagnated, and wage inequalities between black and white men remained stubbornly high. In this same period, membership in U.S. labor unions has plummeted – from one in every three private sector workers enrolled in a union in the mid-1950s to just one in twenty today. So it is natural to ask whether such sharp union decline helps to explain racial economic gaps today.

Our research uses 40 years of nationally representative data and a technique sometimes called “counterfactual analysis” to discover what wage trends among blacks and whites, men and women, would have looked like if union membership in the private sector of the U.S. economy had not declined so sharply. The short answer is that union decline has made racial gaps worse, especially among women.

Public Sector Transformation, Racial Inequality and Downward Occupational Mobility

Source: George Wilson, Vincent J. Roscigno, Matt L. Huffman, Social Forces, First published online: December 9, 2012
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From the abstract:
New “governance” reforms entailing shifts toward privatization have permeated the public sector over the last decade, possibly affecting workplace-based attainments. We examine the consequences of this reform for African American men, who during the civil rights era reached relative parity with whites. We analyze race-based inequities on one socioeconomic outcome-downward occupational mobility-among professionals, managers and executives. Results from a Panel Study of Income Dynamics sample indicate that the “new government business model,” characterized by increased employer discretion has disproportionately disadvantaged African Americans. Narrower racial gaps in the incidence, determinants and timing of downward mobility found in the public sector, relative to the private sector, during the pre-reform period (1985-90) eroded during the reform period (2002-07) because of widening racial gaps in the public sector.

40 Years Later: The Unrealized American Dream

Source: Dedrick Muhammad, Inequality and the Common Good, April 2, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King recognized that the next phase in the African-American’s quest for civil rights and equality was one that would focus on the economic divide between the wealthiest Americans, the working class, and those in poverty. King’s analysis of economic inequality as the foundation of racial inequality remains as valid today as it was 40 years ago.

40 Years Later: The Unrealized American Dream examines the progress in and challenges to economic equality between African Americans and whites since April 4, 1968 using data from the US Census Bureau, the Economic Policy Institute, the Survey of Consumer Finances, and other sources. Findings conclude that despite educational advances, economic equality for African Americans is still a dream, not a reality.