Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Employment Gains by Minorities, Women in Large City Government, 1976-83

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

Employment Gains by Minorities, Women in Large City Government, 1976-83

Article excerpt

Minorities and white women made significant gains in upper-level city government employment over the 1976-83 period; however, their salaries continued to lag those of white men


Employment in the public sector has played an important role in the occupational mobility of blacks and, to a lesser extent, women in the United States. Historically, better educated blacks have found more job opportunities and higher pay in the public sector than in the private sector. This was first true for the Federal Government and more recently for State and local governments. More educated women also have preferred jobs and received higher pay in the public sector.' However, although it is still important as a source of job opportunity, the public sector may now be less so. Using unique data provided by the U.S. Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), this article analyzes the job gains minorities and women have made in city government in recent years.

In the 1960's and 1970's, both supply and demand conditions favored the growth of minority and female representation in State and local government work forces. State and local governments generated a large fraction of all employment growth during this period. From 1965 to 1975, almost one-fourth of all net new jobs were in State and local governments. Since then, however, some of the conditions that made local governments a preferred source of job opportunity for minorities and women have changed. The work forces of local governments have grown very little since 1976, and local government activities have begun to shift from those that created many job opportunities for minorities and women. Still, other factors, such as increases in the share of city labor forces comprised by minorities and women, continue to favor more penetration of local governments by minorities and women.

What is the net result? Have minorities and women increased or decreased their share of local government jobs? This article answers this question for work forces of major U.S. cities for the period 1976 to 1983. The data are from reports submitted annually by State and local governments to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Since 1972, under the provisions of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, State and local governments have been required to report the numbers of employees, classified by function, occupation, salary grade, race, and gender to the Commission. The analysis below are based on the reports from a sample of 222 U.S. cities, including all large cities and most of those with large public work forces. This study ends at 1983 because the data on which it is based are confidential and a unique arrangement was required to obtain access to them. At the time this arrangement was made, 1983 was the most recent year for which data were available.

The analysis shows that, on average, groups other than white men continued to make moderate progress in gaining city government jobs over the study period. However, the pace of progress was slower than in earlier years. The gains were relatively fewer at the upper end of the salary distribution thanat the lower end, and fewer in city governments whose overall work forces were not growing than in those with expanding work forces. In the next section, some of the factors likely to effect changes in the racial and gender mix of city government work forces are discussed.

Economic and political influences

Both demand and supply factors should be important in determining the composition of workers in city government jobs. The mix of services a local government provides affects the demand for different groups of workers because particular types of workers are preferred for particular types of jobs. The relative supply of each group of potential employees also influences the number of jobs each group holds.

On the demand side, social service and antipoverty programs historically have offered more job opportunities for minorities and women than have other activities of government such as police and fire protection, and sanitation. …

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