Statistical Study of the Progress of African American Women in the U.S. Labor Force


The Department of Labor (DOL) Women’s Bureau (WB) sought to conduct a statistical study of the progress of African American Women in the U.S. labor force, using data from the Decennial Census starting in 1920. The goal of the study was to provide promising practices and model policies that employers could utilize to significantly improve the hiring, retention, and promotion of African American Women in the workforce.

Due to the perceived underrepresentation of African American Women in key jobs, WB sought to research and analyze the socioeconomic, educational and occupational progress of African American Women decade-by-decade and to explain in detail the occupational trends that have affected them since 1920.

The Challenge

WB wanted to go beyond a simple analysis of the Census data and provide a series of best practices and policies that employers could use. With this goal in mind, they needed a partner with extensive experience in quantitative analysis and actionable reporting.

EconSys had a strong working relationship with DOL, having worked with both WB and the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) for several years with good results. By leveraging extensive experience in literature review, white paper development, and fact sheet presentation, EconSys was able to meet the needs of WB for the study.

The Solution

Having supported similar studies in the past, EconSys outlined a highly structured process to evaluate the historical performance of African American Women in the U.S. labor force using census data (1920 to present). The final deliverable requested by WB included several fact sheets, a white paper summarizing the findings of the study, and a presentation to key stakeholders in the organization. Included in these were:

  • Insights for Employer Implementation – Best practices, model policies, and key insights were presented in a format that would be actionable for employers to enhance their hiring and retention efforts for African American Women.
  • Identifying Key Research Findings – Fact sheets highlighting major research data points were produced and later distributed by WB for use by key stakeholders and policymakers.
  • Key Trends Related to Employment – Educational trends, occupational trends and labor force participation rates were evaluated based on census data.
  • Socio-economic and Earnings – EconSys evaluated socio-economic impacts on earnings and the key factors that influenced changes over time.
  • Factors Affecting Progress – A summary of key historical and policy decisions was provided along with the impact these had on the overall progress of working African American Women.
  • Implications and Future Directions – The report summarized the team’s findings and how African
    American Women have lost ground between 1980 and 2009, as well as a list of recommended actions.
Our statistical analysis uncovered trends in the labor force for African-American Women that provided unbiased, valuable insights for policy makers and stakeholders.

Jacob Denne

Senior Consultant


Competencies required for the implementation of the project included:
  • Quantitative analysis of African American Women in the U.S. labor force based on US Census Data
  • Trend analysis comparing decade-by-decade the results of the census data
  • Best practice and policy reviews to determine what was most impactful
  • Quantitative analysis of key positions held by worker populations over time

The Results

The resulting report provided a clear summary of the role African-American Women have played in the U.S. labor force since 1920, along with analysis of the role certain policies and best practices have had on those rates.

The project was completed over the course of one year, producing a summary white paper, several fact sheets, and a presentation for use in discussing the key findings with agency stakeholders and policymakers.

DOL and WB were highly satisfied with the results, publishing several fact sheets to the WB website. The agency later reengaged EconSys to perform a similar study and analysis of Immigrant Women Workers.

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