- Black Washington, D.C., residents lack access to high-paying jobs, thus creating significant racial income disparities, according to a Jan. 28 jobs and training report from D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute (DCFPI). The report, which highlights a collection of research studies, said black unemployment levels have failed to fully recover since the Great Recession. In 2007, 9.4% of working-age black residents were unemployed, but that percentage increased to 12.4% in 2018.
- "The intentional segregation of Black workers into the lowest-paid jobs is still reflected today," DCFPI said in a statement. The most common jobs for black residents are, in order: cashiers, janitors and building cleaners, secretaries and administrative assistants, miscellaneous managers, and security guards and surveillance officers. In comparison, the five most common jobs held by white workers are judicial workers, miscellaneous managers, management analysts and postsecondary teachers.
- During the past decade, the black median household income in D.C. remained stagnant — $45,700 in 2008 and $45,200 in 2018. In contrast, white and Latino households saw increases. Among the three groups, from 2008 to 2018, Latino households also saw the largest aggregate and percentage growth in median income — $50,700 to $72,300. The median income for white households in 2018 was $142,500, more than three times higher than the median income for black households.
Majority-black neighborhoods in D.C. have much weaker job markets and access to employment opportunities than more racially diverse neighborhoods, according to a 2019 report from the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
"The extreme difference between the Labor Market and Job Proximity Indices' levels for black and white residents indicates that black residents are systematically denied the same access to opportunity that white residents enjoy," the report concluded.
Many D.C. residents who lack digital skills and job training now live in poverty, according to Demika Alston, an African American native of the city. Alston, an administrative assistant at Byte Back, an inclusive tech organization that provides training for adults to obtain living-wage careers, offered her perspective on the labor market during a Feb. 5 National Skills Coalition panel discussion on skill gaps.
Prior to working with Byte Back, Alston was a restaurant manager, but said she had no digital skills. Once a majority-black city, D.C.'s diversity is dwindling, in part due to a lack of opportunity.
There were "so many changes in D.C. that really made our people lost," Alston said.
In 1970, the District was 71.1% black, according to the D.C. Policy Center, a non-partisan think tank. By 2015, the population of black residents decreased to 48%, and the percentage continues to decline. Alston said people remaining in the District who don't have the skills they need to move forward end up living on the street or in tents.
Alston said she tells her family and friends that digital skills are the pathway to advancement because "this is life now."
On a national level, advancing federal policy solutions would help achieve digital equity, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, senior fellow at NSC and moderator of the discussion, said. "It's not just about investment in digital skills, it's also about recognizing the state and local examples of where folks are really making great strides," she added.
In Ohio, for example, employers are partnering with education and training providers. The state will reimburse employers that pay for employees to earn industry-recognized, technology-focused credentials. Gov. Mike DeWine, R, signed the bill creating the TechCred and Individual Microcredential Assistance Program Jan. 13.
Companies are increasingly prioritizing upskilling, according to a Randstad Sourceright study released Jan. 21. To prepare talent for the digital disruption, employers must turn to reskilling and upskilling the workforce to "complement technological innovation," the study concluded.