People Of Color Missing From High-Wage Careers

youngmenAfrican Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans adults are underrepresented in high skilled, high status occupations, such as management positions.

Researchers found African Americans employed in managerial professions at 40% the rate of White Americans (Bigler et al.). High concentration in low-skilled occupations and low representation in high-skilled occupations leads to lower wage earnings and wealth accumulation for members of ethnic minority groups.

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This gap in the number of ethnic minorities in high-skilled occupations will have a harmful effect on the entire workforce.

By 2030, people of color are projected to make up 45% of the working-age population, up from 18% in 1980 (Symonds, et al., 2011). Economic and racial gaps in education and skills attainment lower the number of people qualified to work in high-paying occupations — occupations needed for the country to maintain or increase its technological, production, and economic statuses.

What can be done?

Education and career development researchers often show evidence that people who are given relevant information and career guidance make better decisions about their postsecondary and employment plans (Holland, 2010; McDonough, 2014; Adelman, 2006, Bangser, 2008; and NCDA, n.d.).


  • Adelman, C. (2006). The toolbox revisited: Paths to degree completion from high school through college. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
  • Bangser, M. (2008). Preparing High School Students for Successful Transitions to Postsecondary Education and Employment. National High School Center.
  • Bigler, R. S., Averhart, C. J., & Liben, L. S. (2003). Race and the workforce: Occupational status, aspirations, and stereotyping among African American children. Developmental Psychology, 39(3), 572-580.
  • Symonds, W.C., Schwartz, R.B., Ferguson, R. (2011). Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. Pathways to Prosperity Project, Harvard Graduate School of Education.