Racial Disparities in Occupational Distribution Among Black and White Adults with Similar Educational Levels: Analysis of Middle-Aged and Older Individuals in the Health and Retirement Study.

TitleRacial Disparities in Occupational Distribution Among Black and White Adults with Similar Educational Levels: Analysis of Middle-Aged and Older Individuals in the Health and Retirement Study.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsAssari, S, Zare, H, Sonnega, A
JournalJournal of Rehabilitation Theory
ISSN Number2767-5122
Keywordsoccupational distribution, Racial Disparities

BACKGROUND: Occupational classes play a significant role in influencing both individual and population health, serving as a vital conduit through which higher education can lead to better health outcomes. However, the pathway from education to corresponding occupational classes does not apply uniformly across different racial and ethnic groups, hindered by factors such as social stratification, labor market discrimination, and job segregation.

AIMS: This study seeks to investigate the relationship between educational attainment and occupational classes among Black, Latino, and White middle-aged and older adults, with a focus on their transition into retirement.

METHODS: Using cross-sectional data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), this research examines the impact of race/ethnicity, educational attainment, occupational classes, and timing of retirement among middle-aged and older adults. The analysis includes a sample of 7,096 individuals identified as White, Black, or Latino. Through logistic regression, we assess the additive and multiplicative effects of race/ethnicity and education on six defined occupational classes: 1. Managerial and specialty operations, 2. Professional Specialty, 3. Sales, 4. Clerical/administrative support, 5. Services, and 6. Manual labor.

RESULTS: Participants were Black (n = 1,143) or White (n =5,953). This included Latino (N =459) or non-Latino (n = 6,634). Our analysis reveals a skewed distribution of Black and Latino adults in manual and service occupations, in stark contrast to White adults who were more commonly found in clerical/administrative and managerial positions. Educational attainment did not equate to similar occupational outcomes across racial groups. Key findings include: Firstly, Black individuals with a college degree or higher were less likely to occupy clerical and administrative positions compared to their White counterparts. Secondly, holding a General Educational Development (GED) credential or some college education was generally linked to reduced likelihood of being in managerial roles; however, this inverse relationship was less evident among Black middle-aged and older adults than White ones. Thirdly, having a GED reduced the chances of working in sales roles, while having a college degree increased such chances. An interaction between race and some college education revealed that the impact of some college education on sales roles was more significant for Black adults than for White ones. We did not observe any interaction between ethnicity (Latino) and educational attainment on occupational classes. Given the stability of occupational classes, these findings could also apply to the last occupation held prior to retirement.

CONCLUSION: This study highlights significant racial disparities in occupational classes among individuals with comparable levels of education, underscoring the profound implications for health and wellbeing disparities. Future research should explore strategies to alleviate labor market discrimination and job segregation as ways to close these occupational gaps. Additionally, the influence of social stratification, job segregation, and historical legacies, such as the repercussions of the Jim Crow era, on these disparities merits further investigation. Addressing these issues is crucial for enhancing the health and wellbeing of all populations.

Citation Key13991
PubMed ID38774764
PubMed Central IDPMC11108055
Grant ListU54 MD000214 / MD / NIMHD NIH HHS / United States