Black Foreign-Born Workers Have Highest Jobless Rate in America

A new study dispels the myth that immigrant workers are taking good-paying jobs away from American-born workers. According to “The Low Wages of Black Immigrants,” released last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), black workers, whether they were born in the United States or in a foreign country, have the highest unemployment rate, period.

In the United States, the black unemployment rate in July was 15.9 percent, compared with an overall rate of 9.1 percent. The 12.4 percent jobless rate among black immigrant workers last year was slightly higher than for Hispanic immigrants (11.3 percent) and significantly higher than for white (7.4 percent) and Asian immigrants (7.3 percent).

At the same time, black workers, whether native-born or immigrant, earn significantly less than white workers, the report shows. This is especially true for men. U.S.-born black men earn 19.1 percent less than white men while black immigrant men from English-speaking Caribbean countries earn 20.7 percent less. Haitian men (33.8 percent less) and African men (34.7 percent less) do substantially worse than any other group.

All groups of black women have lower weekly wages than similar U.S.-born white women, but the size of the wage gaps is smaller for women than it is for men.

The report’s co-authors, Patrick Mason, economics professor at Florida State University, and Algernon Austin, director of EPI’s Race, Ethnicity and the Economy program, point out that it’s not a matter of education that cretaes the job and wage gap for blacks. In 2008, more than one-third of African immigrants (36.6 percent) had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 29.5 percent of whites. A higher percentage of native-born blacks (32 percent) had high school education than whites (30 percent), according to the study.

The EPI study follows a U.S. Labor Department report released last month that shows African Americans lag behind the rest of the nation in the slow economic recovery. Other studies show that blacks are disproportionately hurt by cuts in public employment and attacks on public workers.

Mason and Austin said their study makes it clear that:

because this disadvantage in the labor market affects both U.S.- and foreign-born blacks, it points to a problem that stems from race and not cultural background.