Not Only Unequal Paychecks: Occupational Segregation, Benefits, and the Racial Wealth Gap

Occupational segregation persists as people of color and women are often steered into lower paying and lower status careers than White men. In this investigation, we study the financial impacts of racial and ethnic segregation in the workplace to identify job-based sources of the enduring racial wealth gap in key sectors of the U.S. economy. 13 We focus on five large sectors with substantial presence in the U.S. private sector economy that exemplify a range of lower and higher paying fields: restaurant, construction, healthcare, finance and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Occupational segregation patterns are stark in all five sectors. Black and Latino employees are underrepresented in STEM positions, the highest paid field in our study, while Latino workers are highly overrepresented in restaurant and construction positions, the two lowest paid fields studied. Black workers are concentrated in health, a field with both high and low paying positions, but are more likely to hold lower-paying health care positions. In fact, almost four in ten (38 percent) Black employees working in health care are health or personal care aids with typical incomes below $25,000 per year.14 By contrast, just three percent of White workers hold positions in the restaurant sector, while they are more likely to hold finance and STEM positions than their Black and Latino peers.

– Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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