Still an Equal Opportunity Employer? Public Sector Inequality in the Wake of the Great Recession

Jennifer Laird, University of Washington

Historically, the public sector has served as an equalizing institution through the expansion of job opportunities for minority workers. This study examines whether the public sector continues to serve as an equalizing institution in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Using Current Population Survey data, I investigate changes in public sector employment and unemployment between 2003 and 2013. My results point to a post-recession double disadvantage for black public sector workers: they are concentrated in a shrinking sector of the economy, and they are substantially more likely than other public sector workers to be without work. These two trends are a historical break for the public sector labor market. I find that deteriorating employment outcomes for black public sector workers cannot be explained by differences in education, occupation, or any of the other measurable factors that are typically associated with employment.

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Presented in Session 81: Race and Gender Inequalities Following the Great Recession