Minority women win job race in record economic expansion

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The US economy turned a milestone on Monday, reaching its longest ever expansion. Just ten years ago, the country was in a deep recession that wiped out billions of dollars in wealth and left millions unemployed.

As the recovery has generated uneven gains, Hispanic women have emerged as the biggest winners in the labor market in an economy that has now grown for 121 straight months, assuming data released in the coming months confirms continued growth. .

Employment rates for Hispanic women between the ages of 25 and 54, the years of peak activity, have jumped 2.2 percentage points since mid-2007, on the eve of the Great Recession. This is the most of any working group in the prime of life. Black women came in second, adding 1.6 percentage points.

While employment rates have increased for minority women, they are far from the biggest winners from expansion through other measures. The richest 1% of earners – who are predominantly white and male – have earned disproportionate incomes throughout the expansion and recovery. According to the Tax Policy Center, the richest 1% also received nearly 17% of the total first-year profits of the Trump administration’s $ 1.5 trillion tax cut.

“We have a problem of wage inequality, income inequality and wealth inequality where most of the growth goes to the top,” said Valerie Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s race program, ethnicity and economics. “These people are less likely to be women and much less likely to be women of color.”

But the economic and social trends that have long prevented minority women from earning jobs and earning wages appear to be changing.. Hispanic women have historically worked less than any other demographic, earned fewer degrees than white and black women, and had the highest fertility rates. This is changing: Hispanic women have displayed a fertility decline over the past decade and they have continued to increase their level of education.

Recent job gains show that prolonged economic growth, combined with these social changes, has the power to uplift long marginalized minorities. The model also offers encouraging news for employers: As these women flock to jobs, they provide a new source of work in an economy where workers are increasingly scarce..

The record for expansion won’t be official until growth data is released over the next few months, but America has clearly seen a long period of labor market recovery. Unemployment is near its lowest level in 50 years and prime-age employment rates have rebounded after falling sharply during the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath.

These advances allowed the black workforce to begin to recover from a painful recession. For Hispanic women, the recent gains are part of a longer-term trend toward increased employment, but which has recently accelerated.

From around 2012 and from 2014, Hispanic women between the ages of 25 and 34 began flocking to jobs, contributing substantially to the group’s overall progress. They are now working at their highest rates ever. hispanic women focus heavily in service jobs, including health care, which increased throughout the expansion.

“It looks like something structural is happening,” said Ernie Tedeschi, political economist at Evercore ISI.

Education is a big part of the story. While the share of whites and blacks aged 18 to 24 who were enrolled in college declined slightly between 2010 and 2016, the share of Hispanic women seeking a degree jumped up at 41 percent from 36 percent.

That’s an improvement from a low level – 48.9% of white women were registered, for comparison – but it has major implications for the job market. Employment rates increase steadily with educational attainment.

Mariah Celestine, 25, is a student at Columbia Business School and the first person in her family to pursue a master’s degree. She has a direct vision of cultural change. Going back to school and leaving her salary at the Bank of America was a difficult choice, as she was financially helping an aunt in New York and her extended family in Puerto Rico.

“For us, a lot of times it’s a balancing act: pursuing that passion but knowing that there will be stability,” she said. “We know that other people will depend on our success.”

She believes her peers – often the first generation in their family to be born in the United States and raised in her culture – watch women succeed on the national stage and try to follow in their footsteps.

“It’s about investing in yourself and having as many opportunities as possible,” she said. “A lot of housework and household chores have been done by women in the past, and we don’t see that changing. But I think it’s: what can I do to make my family as comfortable as possible? “

Smaller families might leave more time for Hispanic women to devote to their careers. The age-adjusted fertility rates of Hispanic women fell between 2008 and 2016, based on analysis by the Institute of Family Studies.

[Why birthrates among Hispanic Americans have plummeted.]

The two changes – education and fertility – bring Hispanic women closer to other American racial and ethnic groups. The millennials of the group are more heavily Born in the United States, they were therefore brought up in American culture, paving the way for this convergence.

But economic opportunity appears to have been the spark that allowed a long-standing cultural shift to ignite. While young women had improved their education rates and delayed childbearing for years, their employment rate only rose in earnest halfway through the expansion, as available jobs outpaced workers. available.

The experience of black workers underscores the role of the hot labor market. While black women are also having fewer children, the group’s employment has historically kept pace with the economy. This trend has continued in this economic cycle: as companies hired regularly, the participation of black workers in the labor market has increased.

Now the question is whether these gains will prove to be sustainable. Political decision-makers sometimes stress that certain minorities suffer from a phenomenon of last hired, first dismissed. Black women saw their employment rate drop 9.4 percentage points from its peak to its trough during the latest crisis. Hispanic women had a similar but more subdued response, losing about 6 percentage points.

Even if this pattern is repeated in the next recession, the fact that minority women are now finding jobs could leave them more experience for their future resumes and more money in the bank.

“Consolidating labor market experience and income is a good thing,” said Heather Boushey, executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “I think it’s a good without ambiguity.”

But it remains to be seen whether minority workers will see their wages catch up. Hispanic women with a bachelor’s degree or above earned an average of $ 46,237 in 2017, compared to $ 55,450 for non-Hispanic white women and $ 85,855 for non-Hispanic white men, according to Census Bureau data.

Much of that gap stems from the types of jobs in which women, and particularly minority women, work, Ms Boushey said. They bias strongly towards less remunerative service work. Research suggests that career breaks and reduced hours that are sometimes associated with raising children also play a role.

It is also unclear what is happening with Hispanic men and what it might mean for their families and communities. Like white men, Hispanic men work less at all levels of education. Before the downturn, the employment rate for Hispanic men aged 25 to 34 peaked at 91.6%. In May, this rate stood at 85.7%.

Jobs available today the economy can favor women over men – health services, food and recreation and education jobs have all hired aggressively and are all dominated by women – and women can work harder to bolster household incomes while men have struggling to find their place.

Either way, the fact that minority women are regularly joining the ranks of employees could be good news for companies hungry for talent. With the unemployment rate historically low, economists feared companies would run out of candidates, forcing them to sharply raise wages and prices as they vied for a finite number of potential employees.

As sidelined groups demonstrate their readiness to work, they could help keep widespread labor shortages at bay.

“There is still room for employment-to-population ratios to increase: these are largely untapped segments of the workforce,” said Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute. “Since there are more Blacks and Browns in the population, in the labor force, it is reasonable to assume that these are the groups in which you will see the growth.”

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