Labor Economics: Theory, Institutions, and Public Policy

By Ray Marshall; Vernon M. Briggs Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 17
Employment Discrimination and Public Policy

As indicated in Chapter 4, women and minorities will constitute over 80 percent of the growth of the labor force for the rest of this century. The qualifications of these workers -- who have had very restricted education and employment opportunities will therefore have important implications for both the performance of the American economy and the quality of American life. The population of the United States has always been racially and ethnically diverse, but minorities have constituted a relatively small part of the population relative to the projected growth for the next several decades. In the year 2015, for example, it is estimated that there will be 91 million minorities in the United States, 3 million more Hispanics than blacks. Minorities will be about 34 percent of the population, compared with 17 percent in the middle of the 1980s. Indeed, by that date minorities probably will be a majority of the populations of the nation's three largest states -- California, New York, and Texas.

In addition to their growing numbers, minorities have attracted public policy attention, mainly during and after World War II, because of their inferior status -- a status made more conspicuous by their migration from rural to urban areas and from the South to the North and West. Before 1910, for example, over 90 percent of the nation's black population resided in the South -- mostly in rural areas. In 1980, by contrast, almost half of the nation's black population lived outside the South. By that date, moreover, both the black and Hispanic populations were more urbanized than were whites.

Those Hispanics who are of Mexican origin (often referred to as Chicanos) were the least urbanized racial group in the Southwest prior to 1950; but by 1970 they were the most urbanized group in that region. Throughout the 20th century, Hispanics of Puerto Rican ancestry have moved in large numbers to the mainland -- especially to the urban areas of New York City and Chicago. In addition, the exodus of Cubans to the United States since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 has caused Miami to have the largest proportion of foreign-born population (over 35 percent) of any U.S. city.

The post- World War II years witnessed the rise of the civil rights movement, which was led by blacks but had the support of many others. This movement triggered demands for greater economic opportunity by other racial and ethnic minorities and contributed to the rise of the women's movement.

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