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Analyzing Racial and Ethnic Data in the Survey of Young Workers


In November 2014, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System released the initial findings from the Survey of Young Workers.1 The report focused on the experience and expectations of young adults in light of two substantial changes to the U.S. labor market: increases in globalization and automation that have reduced the availability of well-paid, secure jobs for less-educated persons and a long-run increase in the use of "contingent work" arrangements.2 Consequently, young adults have experienced higher rates of unemployment and lower rates of labor market participation than the general population for at least 20 years.

Key findings in the report included (1) a notable correlation between education and early work experience with upward career mobility and higher pay, (2) a young adult's ability to pay for postsecondary education affects their decision to enroll, and (3) job stability is more important than higher pay among young workers.

The initial report also found that intangibles, including demographics and personal connections, play a role in an individual's labor market success. In principle, the labor market is supposed to be unbiased toward demographic differences. However, sociological research supports the notion that race and ethnicity constrain individual choices and affect one's chances of success.3 This report focuses on the similarities and differences the survey data found across respondents of three racial and ethnic groups: white (non-Hispanic), black (non-Hispanic), and Hispanic.


1. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (2014), In the Shadow of the Great Recession: Experiences and Perspectives of Young Workers(Washington: Board of Governors, November), to text

2. In 1995, the Bureau of Labor Statistics defined contingent work as "any job in which an individual does not have an explicit or implicit contract for long-term employment." See www.bls.govReturn to text

3. American Sociology Association (2005), Race, Ethnicity, and the American Labor Market: What's at Work? (Washington: ASA, June),  Leaving the BoardReturn to text

Last update: November 5, 2015

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