Skip to main content

Joint Economic Committee Democrats Chairman - Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

The Economic Status of Black Americans

Key Points:
Despite significant economic progress, Black Americans experience far more precarious economic conditions than the population as a whole.
While the typical Black household’s income has risen over time, Black households earn just 62 cents for every dollar earned by white households.
Historically, the unemployment rate for Black Americans has been approximately twice the rate for white Americans.
Black Americans have experienced observable gains in educational outcomes, but gaps remain.

Despite significant improvements over the past few decades, Black Americans experience far worse economic conditions than white Americans and the population as a whole. Black workers and families lag behind other racial and ethnic groups in wealth, face ongoing disparities in income (across levels of educational attainment) and struggle to save for retirement and child care. At the same time, there have been marked progress in other measures like college and high school completion and rates of union participation. Recognizing both the progress that has been made over the last decades, as well as the challenges that remain, is essential to ensuring that every American has a positive opportunity to build and fully participate in an economy that is more inclusive and fair.

Since the beginning of the publication of labor market data reflecting Black workers specifically, there have been significant improvements in the visibility of Black workers and families in the economy. Because of these and other growing sources of data, economists and policymakers are better equipped to recognize, explain and address the challenges and progress of Black Americans over the last 50 years.  

 There are three main components to this analysis:

  1. A series of key facts at the national level that describe many of the most significant economic inequities facing Black Americans.
  2. A series of national graphs showing systemic inequalities with some written analysis to assist with interpretation.
  3. A series of state-level tables providing more granular data on the pre-pandemic position of Black Americans in the economy and the impact of COVID-19.