Retail Race Divide: How the Retail Industry is Perpetuating Racial Inequality in the 21st Century

June 7, 2015

Across the country, efforts to improve the working conditions and living standards of low-wage workers continue to draw much-needed attention to how labor market norms and economic policies are failing America’s most vulnerable families. However, the link between these economic policies and racial inequality has yet to be fully unpacked. A new Demos/NAACP report draws this link by examining practices in the retail industry, one of the largest sources of employment in the country and the second-largest industry employing Black workers. It reveals that retail employment fails to meet the needs of Black and Latino workers and, as a result, perpetuates racial inequality.

The Retail Race Divide: How the Retail Industry is Perpetuating Racial Inequality in the 21st Century analyzes retail workers’ occupations, earnings, and schedules.

Read the full report here:

The report finds that retail employers pay Black and Latino full-time workers just 75 percent of the wages of their white peers, amounting to losses up to $7,500 per year. Further, Black and Latino workers are overrepresented in the positions with the lowest pay and least stability, and are more likely to be working poor than their White colleagues.

Other key findings include:

  • Black retail workers share the attributes of the overall retail workforce, but face worse outcomes: 17 percent of Black and 13 percent of Latino workers live below the poverty line, compared to 9 percent of the retail workforce overall.
  • Black and Latino retail workers are underrepresented in supervisory positions like managers or first-line supervisors. Black workers make up 11 percent of the labor force, but just 6 percent of managers. Conversely, Black and Latino retail sales workers are overrepresented in cashier positions, the lowest-paid position in retail.
  • Involuntary part-time workers are a large share of the Black and Latino retail workforce. More than 40 percent of Black and Latino part-time retail workers would like full-time work, compared to 29 percent of White part-time employees.

The report concludes with solutions for retailers to reduce racial inequities by improving employment conditions for all workers in the industry. Policies that protect the rights of workers and amplify their voices on the job can address some of the worst employment practices.

Additionally, raising the federal minimum wage will provide decent living standards for hard-working retail employees and their families while reducing the racial wage divide. As this research demonstrates, retail employers have a critical opportunity to commit to ending racially biased outcomes in the industry and to make retail jobs an opportunity for all workers to thrive.

For more information, contact Dedrick Muhammad, Sr. Director of the NAACP Economic Department at dmuhammad@naacpnet.org or Dawn Chase, Manager of Diversity and Inclusion, at dchase@naacpnet.org.

For media inquiries contact:

Nicole Kenney
(410) 336 – 4559
nkenney@naacpnet.org

Donte Donald
(212) 485 – 6062
Ddonald@demos.org

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