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A view of downtown Detroit.
Metro Detroit’s fastest-growing, well-paying jobs are disproportionately going to white workers, depriving Black residents of opportunities to make decent wages and join the middle class, according to a report released Monday by Detroit Future City.
The report, “Growth Occupations: Opportunities for more equitable participation in Detroit’s Growing Economy,”
blames systemic racism, discrimination in hiring, and a gap in skills training.
As a result, the inequity is perpetuating the region’s economic racial divide, the report states.
About 16% of Black workers in the region are in growth occupations, compared to 26% of white workers. In Detroit, only 13% of Black and Latino workers are employed in growth occupations.
Jobs are considered growth occupations if they are growing at the same or higher rate than the region as a whole, pay at least a middle-class wage, have increased wages between 2014 and 2019, and employ at least 300 people in the region.
DFC identified 107 growth occupations in the region, accounting for one out of four jobs in metro Detroit. The jobs include registered nurses, software developers, accountants, elementary school teachers, electricians, and loan officers.
Most of the jobs pay more than $35 an hour or $73,000 a year.
“The city of Detroit and the region’s economies are improving, but over the past decade low wage jobs have been the fastest growing,” said Anika Goss, DFC president and CEO, in a statement. “This leaves little opportunity for residents who are Black and Latino to access a middle-class wage. Detroiters cannot continue to serve as the low-wage talent pool for our region. In order to grow the middle class and create equitable and sustainable economic systems for all Detroiters, we need to create an economic development strategy that is laser focused on attracting and retaining these growth occupations that pay middle-class wages. We also need to remove barriers to these jobs for Black and Latino workers.”
Growth occupations are integral to building a stronger middle class in Detroit. The median household income in Detroit remains at $36,000, just over half that of the region. White workers are paid nearly 1.4 times higher than Black and Latino workers, and the number of middle-class neighborhoods in Detroit has decreased from 22 to 11 in the past 10 years.
“Strong regional economies capitalize on all of the talent at their disposal to power inclusive growth,” said Alan Berube, interim vice president and director of Brookings Metro. “Only by broadening access to the region’s growing jobs and sectors can Detroit secure a prosperous future for all its residents.”
One of the goals of Detroit Future City is to grow Detroit’s middle class and improve the quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods.
The organization proposed eight strategies to create more equitable access to growth occupations. They include attracting growth occupations to the city, increasing training, evaluating hiring practices, and ensuring access to the jobs through wrap-around services such as child care, transportation, and mental health.
“This report should serve as a guide for cross-sector leaders in economic development, education, health, and human services to work together to create opportunities for Detroiters to access resources and training for these jobs, and then have a pipeline of solid jobs that pay middle class wages as the outcome,” Ashley Williams Clark, DFC vice president and director of the Center for Equity, Engagement, and Research, said.
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