How Our Labor Utilization Statistics Debunk the "Blacks are lazy" Myth
Let me start off by saying that in 2014 I find it appalling that I even HAVE to debunk the myth that Black people are lazy. As a descendant of people confined to slavery who were called lazy because they picked cotton for most of a 24 hour day and not all of it, only to be continue to be called lazy after they were no longer slaves, this is infuriating. Worse more is the fact that no matter how much evidence is shown to the contrary people have continued to hold this belief. Well here is yet more evidence to the contrary. That evidence shows that Black people, even during times of economic downturn, continue to search for work more than Whites. The data comes not from some "liberal think tank" or other group, but from our own labor utilization statistics.
In March of 2012, John Schmitt & Janelle Jones from the Center of Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) wrote a paper called Long-term Hardship in the Labor Market. In the paper they compiled a graph that shows both the U-3 and U-6 unemployment rates for 2011. The U-3 rate, our standard for measuring unemployment, includes all those actively looking for employment but unable to find it. The U-6 unemployment rate, which includes the U-3 rate as well, also includes discouraged, marginally attached and part-time workers who want full-time work but took a part-time job for economic reasons.
The results are below:
The authors add:
"We start with race and gender. Figure 1 shows the standard unemployment rate and the broader U-6 measure for eight race or ethnicity and gender groups in 2011. Black men (18.1 percent) and women (14.3 percent) had the highest unemployment rates. Latino women (11.9 percent) and men (11.3) followed. White men (7.8 percent) were next, with a rate that was lower than the national average (9.1 percent). Asian women (7.5 percent) and men (7.3 percent) had unemployment rates that fell between those for white men and white women (6.8 percent), the group with the lowest unemployment rate of these eight race-and-gender categories."
Now given that the U-3 rate, our standard for unemployment, one would think that just the fact that a higher percentage of black men and women are actively seeking employment compared to their white counterparts would put this myth to bed but sadly it hasn't. Looking more closely at the relationship between the U-3 and U-6 reveals even more evidence to contradict the myth that Black people are lazy. In 2011 Black men had a U-6 rate of 25.5% and a U-3 rate of 18.1%. By comparison White men at the same time were at 12.8% and 7.8% respectively. Further examination of the data shows that 70.9% of those who make up U-6 rate for black men are actively seeking employment. For White men that percentage is 60.9%. The trend also held true across gender lines as well. Black women outpaced White women by the same metric (see below).
So what can we conclude from this data? The most obvious conclusion is that in 2011 despite many Americans being in dire straights and being available for work that largely isn't available Black people who were jobless consistently continued to seek out employment at a higher rate than Whites. Does this sound like something a lazy group of people would do? Admittedly the roughly ten percentage point difference is not large enough to conclude that Black people are more hard working and vigilant in seeking employment than Whites. What the data does show is that the myth is patently false based on the way America measures and has always measured labor utilization.