Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies: Racial Differences on the Future of Work

Technological innovations are rapidly changing the American workplace. As robots and computers streamline the production process, many American workers are discovering new ways to be more productive. They are also finding that technological innovations are creating new opportunities for advancement within the workplace. However, despite increasing productivity and workplace opportunities, technological efficiencies have displaced American workers or have required American workers to develop new skills.

In addition to those changes in the workplace, people of color are estimated to become the majority of the United States population by sometime between 2040 and 2050. Therefore, the perspectives of people of color today about technology, job-readiness, employability, the acquisition of skills, benefits, and education for children are even more critical to understanding the future of work.

These perceptions by people of color are important in developing solutions to ensure that Americans from all backgrounds are prepared to participate in the economy in the future and that the U.S. economy remains competitive. For example, if children of color are currently becoming the majority of children in the United States, policymakers should pay attention to data that shows significant populations of African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos believe schools should teach computer programming. Current workforce trends—such as a large number of Latinos who report shifting from salaried to hourly work or having an interest in a GED or community college— can affect Latino workers, their children, and all of us who may depend on the productivity and tax dollars of those workers and their children over the next 50 to 75 years.

Considering racial perceptions about the future of work is also essential in addressing longstanding challenges that have plagued America since its founding and ensuring that well-intentioned proposals do not exacerbate existing disparities over the next 50 to 75 years. For example, policymakers and employers designing tuition-assistance programs should know that significant racial disparities may emerge among employees who take advantage of those programs once employees are required to spend more than $500 of their own money on training.

In this report, the Joint Center seeks to better understand how different racial groups perceive the changing nature of work. We commissioned and analyzed a nationally representative survey of 1115 Whites and nationally representative oversamples of 667 Blacks, 619 Latinos, and 611 Asian Americans. The sample was re-weighted to a 2000-person sample with 500 interviewees from each racial group. The survey, which was conducted by Nielsen Scarborough, seeks to understand differences and similarities across these different communities in perceptions regarding changes in the workplace, the effect of technology on work, job security and other workplace benefits, training to acquire new skills, and preparing children for a changing economy.