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An Analysis of Perceptions of Job Insecurity among White and Black Workers in the United States: 1977–2012


While objective measures indicate that the risk of job loss is higher for black workers than for white workers, there is little research on how what workers’ expectations of job loss differ by race. This study looks at how secure black and white workers are feeling about their jobs and how their perceptions of job insecurity have been affected by time trends and regional unemployment rates. I find that perceptions of job security of black male workers, older black workers, and black high school graduates have deteriorated relative to their white counterparts during the period 1977–2012. Among those who attended college, white workers’ perceived job insecurity has increased. Black blue-collar workers’ and construction workers’ perceptions of job insecurity also have increased relative to their white counterparts. Moreover, perceptions of job insecurity among several black groups, such as high school dropouts and old workers, are more sensitive to regional unemployment rates than their white counterparts.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    On a related subject, Blanchflower and Oswald (2004) and Stevenson and Wolfers (2012) find that the happiness of blacks has increased, both absolutely and relative to whites, since 1970s.

  2. 2.

    Racial discrimination also occurs at the hiring stage. Bertrand and Mullainathan (2004) found that resumes with black-sounding names (such as Lakisha and Jamal) were less likely to receive a callback than resumes with white-sounding names (such as Emily and Greg).

  3. 3.

    I have the data for the following 20 years: 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012.

  4. 4.

    Mean job insecurity was linearly interpolated for years the GSS did not take place.

  5. 5.

    We need to keep in mind that there are only nine census regions, and thus regionally averaged unemployment rates encompass a fair amount of noise or measurement error. There are nine regions: New England, Middle Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, Mountain, and Pacific.

  6. 6.

    This is because interaction effects are more complicated in nonlinear models, such as logit and probit models, than in OLS. Interpreting the coefficients and the statistical significance of interaction terms in nonlinear models can be misleading, while in linear probability models, the interpretation of the coefficient of the interaction between two variables is straightforward (Ai and Norton 2003). Because of the categorical nature of the dependent variable, however, I also ran ordered probits, which allows the efficient use of ordered qualitative data. Statistical significance of the coefficients of interest does not change.

  7. 7.

    According to Bureau of Justice Statistics (2003) , the rate of ever having gone to prison among adult black males was 8.7 % in 1974 but increased to 16.6 % in 2001. For adult white males, the numbers were 1.4 % in 1974 and 2.6 % in 2001. “Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population, 1974–2001.”


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The author thanks David Fairris and Todd Sorensen for helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Masanori Kuroki.

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Kuroki, M. An Analysis of Perceptions of Job Insecurity among White and Black Workers in the United States: 1977–2012. Rev Black Polit Econ 43, 289–300 (2016).

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  • Job insecurity
  • Race
  • Labor market conditions
  • Discrimination
  • Unemployment


  • classsification
  • D6, I1, H2