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BOSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY

men
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Workers:

kDiaiiVifcbi Overview
Department of Labor
Employment Standards Administration
Women's Bureau

U.S.

1977 (Revised)

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Minority

A

Women

Statistical

U.S.

Department

Ray

Workers:

Overview

Marshall, Secretary

ot

Labor

Employment Standards Administration
Donald Elisburg.
Assistant Secretary for

Employment Standards

Women's Bureau
Alexis M. Herman, Director
1977 (Revised)

CONTENTS

Page

Labor Force Participation

1

Unemployment Status

2

Reasons for Unemployment

3

Unemployment During the Recession

5

Occupations

6

Marital Status

7

Women Heads of Families

8

Working Mothers

9

Children of Working Mothers

10

Education

11

Employment Status of High School Dropouts

11

Earnings

12

Conclusion

14

The 1974-76 period proved to be a particularly difficult time for
many workers --minority and white alike. Unemployment rose throughout
1974, and the 1975 jobless rates, on an annual average basis, were the
highest since data became available by race in 1948. Although overall
unemployment fell somewhat in 1976, unemployment rates were higher than
at any time in the post-World War II era.
In 1976 women had an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent, compared
with 7.0 percent for men. The rate for all minority workers was 13.1
percent, substantially higher than the 7.0 percent for whites. Minority women, then, experiencing both sex and race discrimination, face a
The jobless rate of these
double disadvantage in their job search.
women in 1976 was 13.6 percent.

Despite the higher unemployment rates of minority women workers,
other disadvantages which these women have faced (although still severe)
First, the
have been alleviated to some extent, particularly since 1960.
occupational distribution of minority women has become more favorable as
women have moved into more skilled and professional jobs from the more
menial service- type occupations.
Second, this occupational shift has
been a significant factor in raising the median wage or salary income of
minority women; it rose from $2,372 in 1960 to $6,611 in 1974 for those
working full time throughout the year. This was an increase of 179 perThe income of white women showed a less
cent over the 14-year period.
spectacular increase of 106 percent--from $3,410 to $7,025.

Labor Force Participation
The labor force participation rate of minority women has remained
steady in recent years, while the rate of white women, although still
below that of minorities, has risen considerably.
In 1976 there were
5.0 million minority women 16 years of age and over in the civilian
labor force. Minority women accounted for 12 percent of all women in
the population and for 13 percent of all women workers.
Among all
minority women, about 50 percent were workers, as compared with 47 percent of the white women (table 1).
The labor force participation rate
of minority women was highest among those 25 to 34 years of age; the
rate of white women was highest in the 20- to 24-year-age group.
The proportion of minority women in the labor force exceeded that
of white women in all age groups 25 years and over.
The difference was
greatest among women 25 to 34 years of age, where 65 percent of minority
women were workers compared with 56 percent of white women. The situation was reversed, however, among women 16 to 24 years of age.

Note
Minority races are comprised of all races other than white,
including Negro, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean,
Hawaiian, Eskimo, Aleut, and all other nonwhite races.
Negroes constitute 89 percent of persons of minority races.
Persons of Spanish origin
are included in the white population.
:

Table

1.

— Percentage

of Persons in the Civilian Labor Force,
by Age, Sex, and Race, 1976

Age

Total, 16 years and over
16

Women
White
Minority

50.2

46.9

Men
Minority

70.7

White

78.4

Table

2.

--Unemployment Rates, by Race, Age, and Sex, 1975 and 1976

Men

Women
1976

Age

Minority
Total, 16 years and over
16 to 19 years
20 years and over

Total, 16 years and over
16 to 19 years
20 years and over

13.6

1975

1976

1975

The percentage of unemployment accounted for by reentrants to the
labor force was more than twice as large among adult women as among adult
men in both racial groups. Women made up almost half of the unemployed
who were reentrants in 1976. Several factors account for this:
(1) most
reentrants are women who return to the work force after a period of
absence devoted to childrearing, (2) divorce and separation also force
many women to reenter the labor market, (3) the continued expansion of
the service-producing industries --many offering part-time employment-has led to more jobs for women, and (4) many women have been encouraged
to return to the labor force because of the increasing opportunities that
have resulted from the breaking down of discriminatory barriers.

Table 3. --Percentage Distribution of Unemployed Persons,
by Sex, Age, Race, and Reason for Unemployment, 1976

Total
Number
Sex, age, and race

.

Unemployment During the Recession
To measure the disproportionate burden of unemployment experienced
by minority women, it is helpful to present the rise in unemployment of
both groups in relative terms rather than to simply compare the jobless
rates of both minority and white workers. The "incremental ratio" is
such a measure, as it takes the absolute change in unemployment rates
and expresses this change in relative terms. 1/ Over the course of the
recent recession, 2/ 11 minority adult women entered the unemployment
stream for every 10 white adult women (table 4). Similarly, 18 minority

Table 4.--Peak-to-Trough Change in Unemployment Rates,
by Race, Sex, and Age, November 1973 to May 1975

Peak
Nov. 1973

Trough
May 1975

Over-theperiod change

Minority women, 20 years and over
White women, 20 years and over
Incremental ratio

8.1
4.3

11.9
7.9

3.8
3.6
1.1

Minority women, 20 years and over
Minority men, 20 years and over
Incremental ratio

8.1
5.5

11.9
11.8

3.8
6.3

Race, sex, and age

Minority women, 16 to 19 years
White women, 16 to 19 years
Incremental ratio

.6

37.9
17.0

31.4
13.4

6.5
3.6
1.8

The cycle turning points
Data are seasonally adjusted.
Note:
are those defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Three-month averages were computed to smooth inherent sampling
variability (particularly among relatively small sample size groups)
from the Current Population Survey and to mitigate somewhat the
discrepancy which may occur between the NBER cycle turning points
and the turning points in unemployment.
Source:

U.S.

Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

unpublished data.

See Curtis L. Gilroy, "Black and White Unemployment: The Dynamics
1/
of the Differential," Monthly Labor Review February 1974, pp. 38-47, for
a more elaborate description of this measure.
,

For the purpose of this analysis, November 1973 and May 1975 (the
2/
low and high points in overall unemployment) have been chosen as the peak
and trough months of the recessionary period.

teenage women became unemployed for every 10 white teenage women.
Among adult women and men of minority races, however, the situation
was reversed. Although the absolute unemployment rates of minority
women were higher than those of minority men, 6 minority adult women
became unemployed for every 10 minority adult men in the period. This
occurred because the percentage increase in the unemployment rate for
minority men exceeded that for minority women.

Occupations

Minority women workers were more heavily concentrated in service
occupations (including private household) than were white women 35 and
In contrast, a larger
19 percent, respectively, in 1976 (table 5).
proportion of white women were in professional, technical, or managerial
occupations as well as clerical jobs than were minority women--58 percent compared with 43 percent.

—

Significant changes have occurred in the occupational distribution
of women since 1960. Among minority women, the changes have been more
dynamic.
Between 1960 and 1976 the proportion of minority women who were
professional and technical workers rose from 7 percent to over 14 percent; the proportion who were clerical workers increased from 9 to 26
percent.
On the other hand, the percentage of private household workers
dropped sharply- -from 35 to 9 percent.
Table 5. --Major Occupation Groups of Employed Women,
by Race, 1960 and 1976 1/

Major
occupation group

1976

1960

Minority

Number (in thousands)
Percent
Professional and technical workers
Nonfarm managers and administrators
Clerical workers
Sales workers
Operatives (including transport)
Service workers (except private
household)
Private household workers
Other occupations

Data are for women 16 years of age and over in 1976 but 14 years
1/
and over in 1960.
Source:
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Employment and Earnings, January 1977 and January 1961.

Marital Status
Forty- five percent of the minority women workers in March 1976
were married and living with their husbands (table 6). Twenty-eight
percent were widowed, divorced, or separated from their husbands, and
the remaining 27 percent were single.
In contrast, among white women
workers nearly three- fifths (59 percent) were married and living with
their husbands, 24 percent were single, and 18 percent were widowed,
divorced, or separated.

Minority women with husbands present were more likely to be in the
labor force than were single minority women or those who were widowed,
divorced, or separated. Among white women, those with husbands present
were less likely to be in the labor force than were single women, but
somewhat more likely than those who were widowed, divorced, or separated.

Table 6. --Marital Status of Women in the Labor Force,
by Race, March 1976

Women Heads of Families
In March 1976 there were 2.1 million families headed by women
of minority races. They accounted for 28 percent of the 7.5 million
families headed by women. Women headed 34 percent of all minority
families; by contrast, only 11 percent of all white families had a
female head.

Minority families headed by women were almost twice as likely to
have incomes below the low- income or poverty level as similar white
families 49 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 1975 (table 7).
Among families headed by women who worked full time the year round, the
incidence of poverty was almost four times greater for minority families than for white families-- 15 and 4 percent, respectively.

—

Table

7. --Work Experience in 1975 of Women Heads of Families
With Incomes Below the Low- Income Level, by Race

For those families headed by women who had no work experience during
71 percent of minority families and 40 percent of white families
had incomes below the low- income level.
the year,

Working Mothers

Minority mothers, like their white counterparts, have sharply increased their labor force participation in recent years. The greatest
increase for both minority and white mothers has been among women with
In fact, the participation rate of these
children under 6 years of age.
minority mothers exceeds the rate for all minority women workers. Although
the participation rates for minority mothers have always been considerably
higher than those for white mothers, their increase in the last 5 years
has not been so marked as that of their white counterparts.
Minority mothers in the labor force in March 1976 totaled 2.2 million,
Sixty- two percent of minority women
or 15 percent of all working mothers.
with children 6 to 17 years of age were workers, as were more than half
The comparable
(53 percent) of those with children under 6 (table 8).
figures for white women were 55 and 38 percent, respectively.

Table 8. --Percentage of Mothers in the Labor Force,
by Race, Age of Children, and Marital Status
of Mother, March 1976

Among minority mothers, labor force participation rates were similar for those who were married with husbands present and those who were
On the other hand, the labor force
widowed, divorced, or separated.
participation rate of white mothers with husbands present was significantly lower than that of white mothers who were widowed, divorced, or
separated.
Children of Working Mothers
In March 1976, 28.2 million children under age 18 had working
mothers (table 9). About 4.8 million (17 percent) of these children
were of minority races. More than 1 out of 4 minority children (more
than 1 out of 5 white children) was under 6 years of age.

Approximately 1.7 million minority children and 3.6 million white
children had working mothers who were family heads. But the proportion
of minority children whose working mothers were family heads was more
than twice as high as that of white children- -36 and 15 percent,
respectively.

Table 9. --Number of Own Children of Working Mothers, by Race,
Type of Family, and Age of Children, March 1976
(Numbers in thousands)

Education

Most minority women workers are high school graduates.
In March
1976, 65 percent had graduated from high school, including 12 percent
who had completed 4 or more years of college. The comparable figures
for white women were 76 and 14 percent, respectively.
The median 12.4 years of schooling for minority women workers in
1976 reflected an increase of more than 1 year from the median in 1966,
bringing the median educational attainment to above the high school graduate level.

Both women and men of minority races are narrowing the education gap
between themselves and their white counterparts. The following table
shows the median years of schooling completed by minority and white women
and men in 1976 and 1966:

March

March

1976

1966

Women
Minority
White

12.4
12.6

11.2
12.4

Men
Minority
White

12.2
12.6

10.0
12.3

Data are for persons 16 years of age
Note:
and over in 1976 but 18 years and over in 1966.
Data are from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau
of Labor Statistics, Special Labor Force Reports
Nos. 80 and 193.

Employment Status of High School Dropouts
High school dropouts are seriously disadvantaged in the labor market.
In October 1976 there were 196,000 minority women workers 16 to 24 years
Their unemployof age who had left school before completing high school.
ment rate was 44.9 percent (table 10).
In contrast, among the nearly
949,000 white women of this age group who had dropped out of school, the
unemployment rate was much lower--27.0 percent.
The jobless rate among minority women in this age group who had
graduated from high school was somewhat lower- -22. 7 percent—but was
still excessively high.
The rate for white women graduates was 11.7
percent.

11

Table 10. --Employment Status of High School Graduates Never Enrolled
in College and Dropouts, by Sex and Race, October 1976
(Persons 16 to 24 years of age)

Graduates
enrolled in
Labor force
participation rate

Race

never
college
Unemployment rate

Dropouts
Labor force
participaUnemploytion rate
ment rate

Women
Total

71.0
63.6
72.1

Minority
White

13.0
22.7
11.7

44.8
38.0
46.7

30.0
44.9
27.0

85.7
73.6
88.6

21.7
31.5
19.7

Men
Total
Minority
White

Source:

94.3
84.8
95.5

U.S.

11.3
22.8
10.0

Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

unpublished data.

Earnings

Although the median wage or salary income of minority women increased
by nearly 15 percent between 1973 and 1974, this advantage was seriously
undercut by the 12-percent rate of inflation between those years. Median
income of white women increased 7 percent during the same period.
The median wage or salary income of minority women, like that of white
women, is substantially less than the income of men, either minority or
white.
In addition, fully employed minority women continue to earn less
In
than white women, although the earnings gap has narrowed appreciably.
1974 women of minority races who worked the year round at full-time jobs
had a median wage or salary income of $6, 611- -94 percent of that of white
women, 73 percent of that of minority men, and 54 percent of that of white
men.
In 1960 the corresponding proportions were 70, 63, and 42 percent.

12

Median Wage or Salary Income in 1974, by Race and Sex

Conclusion
As the Nation continues its recovery from the 1973-75 recession, the
unemployment rate for minority adult women is still excessively high--11.4
The rate for
percent, seasonally adjusted, in the fourth quarter of 1976.
teenage unemployment rate,
white adult women was 7.1 percent. The minority
after climbing to an all-time high of 39.3 percent in the second quarter
of 1976, settled back to 35.8 percent by year's end. By contrast, the jobless rate for white teenagers was 17.0 percent.
In terms of employment during 1976, minority adult women experienced
greater proportional increases than their white counterparts. By the
fourth quarter of 1976, 4,140,000 minority adult women held jobs, 5.5 percent more than were working a year earlier; white adult women's employment
stood at 27,950,000 by the end of 1976, a gain of 4.4 percent from the

fourth quarter of 1975.

-

14

U.S.

Department

of

Labor

Employment Standards Administration

Women's Bureau

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