Study finds employment inequality in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A new study shows a big racial gap still exists when it comes to unemployment in Western New York.

The Partnership for the Public Good released a report today about racial employment equality in the Buffalo Niagara.

In a statement by Sam Magavern, Executive Director for the Partnership for the Public Good said “For all of the progress that our nation and our community have made toward equality, we remain plagued by severe racial disparities in many aspects of life. Perhaps none is more troubling or more important than inequality in employment. Access to a good job is, for most people, the key to a good life. Something is sorely amiss when the black and Hispanic unemployment rates in Erie County are more than twice those of whites, and when people of color are earning just over 70 cents for every dollar earned by whites.

The region cannot succeed with such disparities, nor with the pockets of concentrated poverty that accompany them. Poverty and inequality drive down outcomes in health and education; they blight neighborhoods; and they impose large social and governmental costs. They are bad for business and hinder our chances for economic growth. PolicyLink has estimated that closing the racial income gap in Buffalo-Niagara would increase the region’s gross domestic product by 7% – over $3.5 billion per year.1

Racial inequality in employment has proved stubbornly persistent, but there is nothing inevitable or immutable about it. Cities, counties, economic development agencies, and states have many tools available – including targeted hire policies, voluntary employer initiatives, education and training programs, and wage and benefit laws – with the demonstrated ability to promote equal opportunity and ensure that all residents share in Buffalo-Niagara’s emerging renaissance.

Buffalo’s leaders have recognized the challenge. Mayor Byron Brown’s Opportunity Pledge has drawn support from hundreds of businesses and institutions, which have pledged, among other things, to “set collective goals to aggressively reduce poverty and

increase employment opportunities for all residents, thereby enhancing our City’s

productivity and prosperity.” The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has

convened a Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable to address racial disparities in

various sectors throughout the region. The coalition of labor, faith, and community

groups that commissioned this report, joined by many other voices, is calling for action.

Now is the perfect time to build on this momentum and make concrete progress toward




  • People of color in the Buffalo region, even more than in the nation, suffer from devastating rates of unemployment and a heavy concentration in low-wage jobs with inadequate pay, hours, and benefits.
  • · While the 2010-2014 white unemployment rate in Erie County (6.4%) was lower than that of whites nationally (7.5%), the black and Hispanic unemployment rates in Erie County (17.3% and 13.6%) were higher than national averages (16.1% and 11.0%).
  • · Similarly, while the 2010-2014 labor participation rate for whites in Erie County (64.9%) was higher than that of the nation (62.9%), the rates in Erie County for blacks (56.4%) and Hispanics (59.2%) were lower than the national rates for blacks (61.7%) and Hispanics (67.1%).
  • · For young workers of color, the labor market is particularly bad and volatile. In 2011-2013, the Erie County unemployment rate for black workers ages 20 to 24 was 20.5%, compared to 8.2% for their white counterparts.
  • · In Erie County, people of color are concentrated in low-wage jobs such as healthcare support, personal care and service, and building and grounds maintenance, and they are dramatically underrepresented in occupations such as management, law, business, and finance.
  • · In Erie County, black workers earn 71 cents, and Hispanic workers earn 73 cents, for every dollar earned by white workers.
  • · In Buffalo-Niagara, 37% of blacks and Hispanics live below the poverty line, compared to 9% for whites. Median incomes are $25,000 for blacks and $27,000 for Hispanics, compared to $55,000 for whites.


  • · Rigorous research shows that employment discrimination remains highly prevalent; in one field experiment, employers preferred white applicants with recent drug felonies to people of color with no criminal record.
  • · Relatively few companies hold their managers accountable for improving diversity and inclusion.
  • · Many employers use job criteria that do not accurately predict job performance but tend to screen out people of color.
  • · Buffalo-Niagara is the sixth most segregated metro in the nation, which isolates people of color from job access and creates numerous employability disadvantages.


  • · Inequalities in wealth, education, criminal justice, and other aspects of life make it harder for people of color to access quality jobs. People of color in Buffalo-Niagara have homeownership rates of less than half those of whites. Blacks represent 14% of the population, but 41% of arrests.
  • · Rising economic inequality and the policies that have promoted it have hurt people of color the most. For example, people of color have lost more from the decline in union density and the erosion of the minimum wage than whites.
  • · The Great Recession exacerbated employment disparities, as did various austerity policies and governmental cuts made in response.


  • · Targeted hire policies ask companies receiving public assistance to prioritize workers from certain communities, such as zip codes with high poverty rates.
  • · Local employers should commit to setting goals for improving their diversity and reporting out to the public on progress toward those goals.
  • · New legislation should reform the use of credit checks and criminal histories in the hiring process.
  • · The spatial mismatch between people of color and jobs should be addressed with smart growth policies that incentivize business development in densely settled areas on transit lines and provide more adequate funding for public transit.
  • · Direct job creation for disadvantaged workers in targeted communities to rebuild high poverty neighborhoods offers multiple benefits at a low cost.
  • · Anti-discrimination law enforcement should be more adequately funded and augmented with “tester” programs like those used to identify housing discrimination.
  • · Improving wages, work supports, and job quality will help people of color to advance. Minimum wage, living wage, subsidized employment programs, paid family leave, paid sick leave, child care assistance, fair scheduling, and renewed rights to organize and bargain collectively will reduce racial disparities and strengthen our economy.

Region. Local community, religious and labor organizations asked the group to put it together.

The study shows the local unemployment rate among Caucasians is 6.4 percent. Among Hispanics the rate is 13.6 percent and in the African American Community it is 17.3 percent.

Organizers say this data is a good starting point for discussions about bridging the gap.

The groups are asking community members to read the full report and then come to a meeting with about how to bridge the gap.

The meeting will be held on March 18 at the Mount Olive Baptist Church, 701 East Delavan Ave, from 9 a.m. till Noon.

The full report can be read at: PPG website

Panorama Hispano is the regional news and information newspaper for Hispanic and other diverse communities.

US Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority in the United States numbering 54.2 million as of July 2014. Serving: Buffalo, Rochester, Fredonia, Niagara Falls, NY and Erie, PA. Outside our Market area: Visit our affiliate at:

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