Black Americans concentrated in occupations not threatened by knowledge economy

New technologies, automation, knowledge economy.  Phrases and concepts that scare the crap out of Americans who may feel they are not equipped with the technical know-how required by the knowledge economy.

President Obama makes it clear that his economic vision sees more and more Americans obtaining degrees so that they are prepared for the growing number of 21st century jobs calling for scientific, technical, engineering, and mathematics skill sets.  More than half of the 30 fastest occupations require post secondary education, according to the President, and a higher education cuts a direct path to the middle class.

New technology and globalization, however, are threatening the employment of workers here at home as U.S. firms have moved employment overseas in order to serve emerging markets.  The classic threat of globalization has threatened jobs primarily in the manufacturing sector, a trend that can probably be traced all the way back to the National Free Trade Agreement implemented during the Clinton Administration.

Information technology, a core industry in the knowledge economy, has been held up as a job destroyer where automation could eventually replace decision making by executives; large document reviews by equally large armies of lawyers; and customer service representatives with more efficient automated telephone attendants.

Black Americans may not be occupying those fast growing occupations.  I took a look at data from the U.S. Bureau of the Census to determine the occupations with the largest representation of Black Americans and it appears that Black Americans may survive the rest of the decade relatively unscathed by outsourcing and automation.

Below is a list of the top 25 occupations held by Black Americans by concentration of blacks in the occupation.  For example, 38.2% of all barbers in America are black.:

  1. Barbers. (38.2%)
  2. Nursing, psychiatric aides. (34.5%)
  3. Residential advisers. (29.1%)
  4. Postal service mail sorters & processors. (28.6%)
  5. Security guards. (26.6%)
  6. Phlebotomists. (26.5%)
  7. Bus drivers. (25.3%)
  8. Taxi drivers, chauffeurs. (24.8%)
  9. Refuse, recyclable material collectors. (24.9%)
  10. Human & social services assistants. (24.4%)
  11. Parking lot attendants. (23.5%)
  12. Licensed practical & vocational nurses. (23.3%)
  13. Telemarketers. (23%)
  14. Court, municipals, & license clerks. (23%)
  15. Social workers. (23%)
  16. Bailiffs, correctional officers. (22.7%)
  17. Food services, non-restaurant. (22.2%)
  18. Miscellaneous health care support. (21.9%)
  19. Reservation, ticket agents. (21.8%)
  20. Personal care aids. (21.8%)
  21. Postal service clerks. (21.3%)
  22. Laundry & dry cleaning workers. (20.8%)
  23. Baggage porters, bell hops, concierges. (20.8%)
  24. Probation, correctional officers. (20.7%)
  25. Interviewers, except eligibility & loans. (20%)

With the exception of reservation agents, I don’t see these jobs subject to a major threat from the knowledge economy and globalization any time soon.  You’ll need a probation officer to personally keep in touch with a former prisoner.  Most of these top 20 occupations don’t require a high degree of education.  As the structural tide in the American economy continues to turn, blacks in these occupations may have found safe harbor.  This is not to say that Black Americans should settle for these positions, but if blacks are willing to play it safe in these jobs, the President’s STEM employment policy may hit a snag if a significant portion of the population don’t buy into being engineers, scientists, technologists, or mathematicians.




About Alton Drew

Alton Drew brings a straight forward and insightful brand of political market intelligence. Alton Drew graduated from the Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in economics and political science (1984); a Master of Public Administration (1993); and a Juris Doctor (1999). You can also follow Alton Drew on Twitter @altondrew.
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