Economic Snapshot | Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy (PREE)

African Americans and women disproportionately pay the price for austerity and congressional dysfunction

In early 2014, the private sector finally returned to its pre-Great Recession level of employment. Last year was also a turning point for the public sector, which added 74,000 jobs after experiencing losses throughout the recession and most of the recovery. However, due in large part to austerity policy, the public sector is still 381,000 jobs short of where it was before the recession. This public sector austerity is the main reason why even at this years’ decent rate of job growth, a return to full economic health in the labor market remains two years away. A small group of conservative legislators are threatening yet another shutdown of the federal government that would force millions of Americans to make do without needed government services and would force hundreds of thousands of federal employees to go without a paycheck until Congress reaches a resolution.

The burdens of austerity policy and congressional dysfunction have been disproportionately born by women and African Americans because federal, state and local governments have a better record of employing women and African Americans than the private sector does. Women hold nearly 60 percent of state and local government jobs, but less than half of private sector jobs. Combined, African American men and women account for nearly 20 percent of federal employees, compared to less than 10 percent in the private sector.

Economic Snapshot

African Americans and women disproportionately pay the price for austerity and congressional dysfunction

A federal government shutdown would disproportionately impact African Americans.

African Americans make up 19.9% of the federal workforce—


versus 9.8% of the private sector.


At the state and local level, austerity measures disproportionately impact women in the public sector.

Women make up 59.3% of the state and local public sector workforce—


versus 46.6% of the private sector.


Source: Author’s analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata

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