We are going to look at the Labor Force Participation (LFP) rates for Black workers. Historically (slavery does not count) Blacks have had higher participation rates than whites until the 1970s. Now, in 2015 the difference between the Black and White rate is about 1%. It has not been this small since 1974.
One of the reason Blacks had a higher LFP rate than whites was the large number of Black women who worked while White women did not. This changed during the 1970 and 1980 as some discrimination barriers against women were reduced and women, especially white women joined the labor force.
It has continued to Black women have also benefited from reduced discrimination and stable jobs. Women have benefited from job in education and healthcare that offer good benefits and security as compared to jobs held by men.
In fact the 2007-2009 recession was called a "Man-cession" since men fared far worse during the down turn.
Finally, during the recession, many older workers who could afford to, retired.
Below is a chart of Labor Force Participation Rates for Blacks and Whites since 1972.
This chart shows the changes in population versus labor force participation for different groups. For example, during the time period from 1972 to 2015, the population of White Men increased by 60% but only 40% additional White males considered themselves participating in the labor market in the US.
The numbers are still huge: the civilian non-institutional population grew by an additional 36.5 million white men and the labor force by 19.2 million but the growth in the overall participation rate is slower than the growth in the population rate
For Black and White women the trend is positive. Women joined the labor at a faster rate than their population grew.
Black men's LFP grew at more than 90% but below the 120% rate of population increase and the 160% LFP increase for Black women. Ideally one would have expected to see higher growth in the participation rates during the time period however almost every
Black men are plagued by the worst economic evils of our society: poor educational opportunities, incarceration, increased competition from immigrant labor, reduced discrimination against women, foreign competition, and geographic isolation. Still a 90% increase is very good.
Overall, the US national Labor Force Participation has been dropping steeply since the recession of 2007(peak is January 2000).
The gap between Black LFP and White LFP is about 1.1%, a historically low figure. It has been as high as 3.5% during the recent recession.
During the prime working years(25 to 54), Black labor force participation remains high: about 80%.
Female LFP has risen steadily since 1972. Black women's participation rate remains higher than Whites.This may be due to the different economic circumstances such as general wealth differences, future economic prospects, family situation or better retirement plans, It may also be due to cultural characteristics such as the expectation that Black women work.