Press Release Economic Growth Unions Workers

Decline In Auto Industry Undermines Well-Paid Jobs for African Americans

January 23, 2006

Contact: Karen Conner, (202) 293-5380 x117Mail_Outline

January 23, 2006

Decline In Auto Industry Undermines Well-Paid Jobs for African Americans

For Immediate Release: January 23, 2006

Contact: Lynn Erskine 202-293-5380 x115

Washington, DC – The sharp decline in the auto manufacturing sector in the last 20 years has hit African Americans particularly hard, according to a new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Ford Motor Company’s decision to implement another round of layoffs is bad news for Ford workers, but especially for African Americans. Since the end of World War II, manufacturing jobs, particularly unionized jobs in the auto industry, have been an important source of well-paid employment for African Americans.

The study, "The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Auto Manufacturing, 1979-2004 ," details the sharp decline in African-American employment in auto manufacturing and the even sharper decline in African-American union membership rates for the population as a whole. The report, by CEPR researchers John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, analyzed data from the Current Population Survey from 1979 through 2004.

"African Americans have been hit especially hard hit by the loss of jobs in the auto industry. Ford’s layoffs will have a disproportionate effect on the African-American workforce," said economist John Schmitt.

The analysis found that:

  • From 1983 to 2004, union membership rates among African Americans fell 15.1 percentage points (from 31.7 percent to 16.6 percent). This compares to a drop of 8.3 percentage points among whites (from 22.2 percent to 13.9 percent) and 12.8 percentage points among Hispanics (from 24.2 percent to 11.4 percent).
  • The drop in unionization rates for African Americans has coincided with a 13.3 percentage point decrease in the share of African-American workers employed in manufacturing (from 23.9 percent to 10.6 percent). This compares with a drop of 11.4 percentage points among whites (from 23.5 percent to 12.1 percent). African Americans are now somewhat under-represented among manufacturing workers.
  • In 1979, 2.1 percent of all African-American workers were employed in automobile manufacturing. By 2004, this share had fallen by more than one-third to 1.3 percent. By contrast, the share of white workers employed in auto manufacturing fell just 0.2 percentage points from 1.3 percent to 1.1 percent. The share of Hispanic workers also fell by 0.2 percentage points, from 0.8 percent to 0.6 percent.

To read the report, click here.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that promotes democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues affecting 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.


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