People of Color Will Be Majority Working Class by 2032

(Image: Economic Policy Institute)

As policymakers in the United States struggle to remedy socioeconomic factors like income inequality and the wealth gap, some evolutionary trends are taking place that will change the racial dynamic in America’s workforce.

In a new paper, EPI economist and director of the Project on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE), Valerie Rawlston Wilson projects that people of color will be a majority of the working class by 2032.

This is 11 years sooner than the Census Bureau projection for the overall population, which becomes “majority-minority” in 2043, due in large parts to increases in birth rates, and the international migration of nonwhites.

Rawlston Wilson, and the paper’s author, says this new reality of the workforce should be a wake-up call to policymakers.

“It is important to realize that the working class (who Rawlston Wilson defines as working people without a college degree), is more diverse than stereotypical images of white men in blue-collar jobs suggest,” says Rawlston Wilson.

“While policies aimed at raising living standards for the working class are often conflated with policies to raise living standards for white workers without college degrees, the reality is that the working class is increasingly people of color, and our policies should reflect that,” she adds.

The study also highlights the age demographics of our new non-white working class, finding that:

  • The prime-age working-class cohort, which includes working people between the ages of 25 and 54, is projected to be majority people of color in 2029.
  • The age cohort projected to make the earliest transition to majority-minority is the one that includes workers age 25 to 34. These are today’s 18- to 27-year-olds and for them, the projected transition year is 2021.

Among Rawlston Wilson’s key takeaways for the new minority-majority workforce is that current minority groups are going to have to move beyond their own differences so that they can be a powerful collective voice in the development of policies to address current inequalities.

“As the United States continues to undergo this demographic shift, we have to think in terms of big structural and policy changes that help to advance greater equality, expand opportunity for all, and yield universal benefits to the economy,” says Wilson.
“This includes empowering workers to secure gainful employment, bargain for higher wages, and achieve racial and gender pay equity; closing gaps in student achievement and access to college; protecting voting rights; and enacting immigration and criminal justice reform.”