Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Article Index


There has been a continuous economic struggle for the black community in this country as a result of the lingering effects of enslavement and disenfranchisement. The Recession has only exacerbated these previously existing economic challenges. The Recession began roughly in the late 2000s, and there are several differing theories as to how it began.

The current Recession's effect on the black community has been compared to the impact of the Great Depression. In a discussion of the Great Depression, several explanations were offered for the higher unemployment rates of black workers both during and afterwards. One such reason for the higher unemployment rates amongst black people that has been explored is labor market discrimination. “[L] abor market discrimination, in the sense of unequal treatment of equally qualified workers, manifested itself in the form of discriminatory employment policies during the Great Depression. A related argument is that racist attitudes hardened during the Depression, worsening existing labor market discrimination.” Equally qualified black workers were “last hired and first fired.” This premise is just as true today. According to the Center for American Progress,

[T] he unemployment rate among African Americans rises faster than that of whites during a recession[, and] . . . the unemployment rates for African Americans tend to start to rise earlier than those of whites - and those rates tend to stay higher for longer than those of whites. This phenomenon can be described as “first fired, last hired” and is one of the key structural obstacles facing African Americans in the labor market.

Recent statistics clearly show the economic and social effects of the discrimination African Americans faced in this country. As of 2010, the overall poverty rate was 15.1 percent, however, 27.4 percent of African Americans were living in poverty. In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that unemployment among whites was 8.7 percent and unemployment among blacks was 16 percent. The same study has also documented the unemployment statistics for the black and white communities since 1972. The rate of unemployment for the black community has exceeded, and often doubled, that of the white community every year since 1972.

Given the social and economic challenges plaguing the black community, it is clear that a hiring practice penalizing the unemployed can be especially devastating. The disproportionate number of unemployed individuals in the black community, coupled with the other factors previously discussed, highlight the fact that this new form of hiring discrimination can adversely affect the black community and trigger extensive collateral consequences. The disproportionate lack of jobs leads to a lack of income--which leads to desperation--which increases crime in the black community, adding to an incarceration rate for blacks that is already disproportionately high. It is crucial that an adequate remedy be developed and implemented.