Detroit area Black, Latino workers lag in access to quality jobs, report says

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Black and Latino workers in southeast Michigan, particularly those living in Detroit, have less access to the region’s fastest-growing, well-paying jobs, according to a report released Monday by Detroit Future City.

The nonprofit's report, “Growth Occupations: Opportunities for more equitable participation in Detroit’s Growing Economy,” says the reasons for this gap include the need for skills training as well as systemic racism and discrimination in hiring. Detroit Future City’s Center for Equity, Engagement and Research worked with Brookings Metro on the analysis of the American Community Survey.

According to the report, 16% of Black workers in the region are in a growth occupation compared to 26% of White workers. These jobs include 107 roles in three major fields: management, business and finance; healthcare and computers, engineering and science. Wages for these positions would be considered middle-class at a minimum of $25 per hour as of 2019.

“Across the board there are barriers and that’s what we’re really trying to communicate here, is that there are systemic barriers that are keeping some Detroiters from seeking and obtaining some of the highest growth sector jobs in the region,” said Anika Goss, CEO of Detroit Future City. “Until we can address what those barriers are and how we can actually reduce those barriers so that hiring is more inclusive, we will continue to see some of these inequities that we laid out in the report.”

The report notes that academic research has shown that when it comes to hiring practices, Black workers have more challenges receiving callbacks, interviews and job offers than their White peers.

The study found that Black and Latino workers living in Detroit are less likely to be employed in a growth occupation compared to their counterparts in the region. And at every education level, Black workers in Metro Detroit are less likely to hold a growth occupation compared to White workers. For example, 12% of Black workers with some college education were employed in a growth occupation, while 20% of White workers with some college education and 16% of White workers with only a high school diploma were employed in a growth occupation.

The disparity was also present, albeit closer, among Blacks, Latinos and Whites with a college degree or higher. The employment rate for both Blacks and Latinos was 32% compared to 37% for their White counterparts with a college degree or higher.

Jobs with the lowest employment of Black and Latino/Hispanic workers as of 2021 included software developers at 8%, nurse aestheticians at 7% and construction managers at 6%, according to the report. Employment as urban and regional planners was also at 6% and cost estimators was 4%.

Ashley Williams Clark, vice president of Detroit Future City, said one piece of the research touches on whether youth and working adults are made aware of some of these career opportunities and how to access them.

“I think there’s also a piece of this of how we want this report to be used," she said. "Are there opportunities to connect this research to our workforce development strategies for employers to think through how can they grow some talent from within? What we heard was that people don’t understand necessarily what the career pathways are or opportunities. If someone is in a lower-wage job, how can that translate into a higher-wage job in one these growth occupations? What are the supports that are in place to support them in that journey? What are some of the systemic barriers that need to be addressed in doing so?”

The report offers guidance to leaders, including policymakers and employers, to address this employment gap to impact the youth as well as adults currently employed.

Some of the suggestions outlined in the report are an increase in wraparound services, including worker access to child care; low-cost transit options, mental health support services, and evaluating hiring practices to eliminate racial discrimination.

A presentation of the Growth Occupations report can be found at

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN