Home Politics The 1954-2021 historical unemployment of Black men and women in the United...

The 1954-2021 historical unemployment of Black men and women in the United States


By Tiffany N. Ford

Inequality in modern-day unemployment rates has received considerable attention, including work demonstrating that Black teens, Black women, and Black men’s unemployment in the United States is consistently worse than that of white teens, white women, and white men. Using historic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this post sheds light on longer-term trends of this inequality, looking back over six decades.

Readily available data from the BLS shows that unemployment rates for Black men and women have been roughly double those for white men and women, respectively, since 1972. These data also show that the unemployment rate for Black men has exceeded that for Black women since 1980 (except for 1987 and 1998). This post reports on unpublished BLS data which demonstrates that the stark inequality in unemployment rates is longstanding: non-white people have had unemployment rates more than double those of white people as far back as 1954. The patterns in unemployment rates for Black women relative to Black men, on the other hand, have shifted over time.


Beginning in 1972, the BLS began reporting the unemployment rate separately…

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