Assessing Differences in Labor Market Outcomes Across Race, Age, and Educational Attainment

April 21, 2017
By Economic Research Department

Research Working PaperBroad indicators often are used to evaluate the health of the labor market, though they do not necessarily reflect large disparities that exist in outcomes across age, education, gender and race.

Broad indicators are often used to evaluate the health of the labor market but may mask disparities in outcomes across age, education, gender, and race. Understanding these disparate outcomes is part of the process of monitoring the labor market. As such, this paper summarizes work the research staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has done to better understand differences in labor market outcomes. Some of these findings reinforce earlier work, while others offer novel perspectives. First, differences in outcomes across race remain substantial. Despite a significant increase in educational attainment among black individuals, their wages are lower and their unemployment rate significantly higher than for white individuals, even after controlling for education. Second, black individuals are nearly two times more likely to become long-term unemployed than white individuals. This difference, however, explains only a modest amount of the difference in the overall unemployment rates for these groups. Third, job polarization has affected black individuals relatively more due to an education gap that has made it more difficult for those without a college education to secure high-skill employment.

Download paper, RWP 17-03, April 2017 

JEL Classification: J1, J15, J24, J3, J7

Article Citation

  • Economic Research Department. 2017.  "Assessing Differences in Labor Market Outcomes Across Race, Age, and Educational Attainment.” Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Research Working Paper no. 17-03, April. Available at

Related Research

  • Krueger, Alan B., Judd Kramer and David Cho. 2014. “Are the Long-Term Unemployed on the Margins of the Labor Market?" Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, pp. 229-280.
  • Lang, Kevin and Michael Manove. 2011. “Education and labor market discrimination." The American Economic Review, 101(4):1467-1496.
  • Tüzemen, Didem and Jonathan Willis. 2013. “The Vanishing Middle: Job Polarization and Workers' Response to the Decline in Middle-Skill jobs." Economic Review-Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pp. 5-32.