MU study illustrates unemployment inequalities between men, women, minorities

Between the 1990s and 2000s, the race gap declined from more than 4.5 percent to approximately 3 percent.
Laura Davis / Graphic Designer

Although unemployment rate differences between gender and race have declined, there are still noticeable inequalities between white males, women and minorities, according to a study co-authored by MU Department of Economics professor Peter Mueser.

The study, “The Role of Industry and Occupation in Recent US Unemployment Differentials by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity,” was based on data collected between 1992 and 2007 by the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey.

Mueser said the study shows the differences between men and women haven’t disappeared; despite the fact their unemployment rates have been equalized.

“Men and women have the same level of average unemployment rates, but the reason is women are in the kinds of jobs with low unemployment rates,” Mueser said. “Think of teachers and nurses. But, if you look at women in the same kinds of jobs as men, they actually have higher unemployment rates than men.”

According to MU’s 2007 and 2008 Destination Study, of the 51 percent of the female nursing graduates who responded to the study, 90 percent were employed, whereas only 75 percent of male nursing graduates were employed.

However, of the 44 percent of male business graduates included in the study, 81 percent were employed, while only 73 percent of the 51 percent of female graduates were employed.

Mueser said the unemployment rate difference between whites and non-whites have continued to decline over time.

According to Mueser’s study, between the 1990s and 2000s the race gap declined from just more than 4.5 percentage points to approximately 3 percentage points.

Mueser said the causes of this unemployment gap are not identified in the study, and education was not necessarily directly correlated to the unemployment differences.

“It turns out education is not the primary driver,” Mueser said. “There is very little difference between men and women, and certainly not younger men and women. And, for whites and non-whites, it’s not the primary driver of what’s going on.”

Mueser said achieving equality in unemployment rates is going to be slow.

“The long-term trend of the gap between whites and non-whites is going to be in decline,” Mueser said. “In over the long run, whites and non-whites are going to look more and more alike. Although the differences are still large, women and men are going to become more alike over time as well."

In MU’s 2010 and 2011 Destination Survey, there was a noticeable shift in employment rates in previously male-dominated occupations. Male engineering graduates had a 75 percent overall placement rate, whereas female engineering graduates had a 79 percent placement rate. Female business majors had a 74 percent overall placement rate; male business majors had an overall placement rate of 64 percent.

MU Women’s Center coordinator Suzy Day said unemployment differences between gender occur because American culture socializes women and men differently.

Day said education about gender bias and other forms of discrimination are important in eliminating these differences.

“It's important that the companies we are applying to are educated and are taking strides to reduce discrimination, but that we are educating ourselves so that we will see a drop in these intentional and unintentional gaps as this generation becomes the majority of the work-force,” she said.

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