TABLE 2 Labor Force Participation Rate (percent), by Race and Gender, United States, 1972–1999

 

Year

 

Race and Gender

1972

1980

1990

1996

1999

Percent Change, 1972–1999

 

Percent

 

Whites

69.5

74.6

79.0

79.8

79.8

14.8

Men

90.1

89.1

88.7

87.8

87.5

−2.9

Women

50.4

60.8

69.5

71.9

72.2

43.3

African Americans

68.6

70.3

73.1

73.5

75.4

9.9

Men

83.8

80.9

80.5

77.9

77.8

−7.2

Women

56.1

61.7

67.1

69.8

73.4

30.8

 

SOURCE: Jacobs and Zhang, 1998; U.S. Department of Labor, 1999a.

Race

Race plays a part in labor market dynamics and would appear to interact with gender.2 Over the last 27 years, labor force participation rates increased among all working-age whites by 14.8 percent, but the increase among all working-age African Americans was only 9.9 percent (Table 2). The decrease in labor force participation rates among all working-age white men was less than half that experienced by African-American men (2.9 versus 7.2 percent, respectively), while the increase among white women was far larger than that among African-American women (43.3 versus 30.8 percent, respectively). Between 1972 and 1999, the gap in labor force participation rates between African-American and white men grew, from 6.3 percentage points in the former year to 9.7 percentage points in the latter. In 1972, labor force participation rates of African-American women were higher than those of white women (56.1 and 50.4 percent, respectively), but by 1999 the groups had virtually identical labor force participation rates (73.4 and 72.2 percent, respectively).

Age

Another factor affecting the labor market over the last several decades—and one likely to have an even more profound impact in the years

2  

Prior to 1972, published labor market series combined all non-Caucasians into one category. Accordingly, we report racial differences in labor force participation from 1972 to 1999.



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