Who Bears the Burden of
The considerable variations in the aggregate magnitudes of unemployment over time and space and according to time horizon (long versus short run) disguise important demographic, racial, and gender differences in unemployment. In many recent years, teenage unemployment rates have been triple the overall unemployment rate, and at times there have been more modest, but noticeable, differences in unemployment by gender. Far and away the most interesting and potentially divisive differential, however, is that with respect to race.
Many writers have studied these differences intensively. In a general survey of a century of unemployment, we cannot hope to explore them in as much detail as some would think desirable. For example, we have not used the micro data sets available only for recent decades, since that departs from the historical nature of this volume, and those data are not strictly comparable to some earlier figures available from the census. At the same time, however, to ignore these differentials completely would lead us to neglect an important part of the twentieth-century unemployment story. Accordingly, we have decided to point out some facts on these demographic, gender, and race differences in a historical context, and suggest some reasons why they may exist.