Poor African American Women and Work: The Occupational Attainment Process


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

I use multiple measures to examine the occupational attainment process among urban African American women from low-income backgrounds. Using 10-year follow-up data and earlier study data, I found that employment histories and current employment had more impact than childbearing events or amount of education on the income and job quality of minority women in their mid-twenties. Simply being employed led to an adequate job with minimal financial self-sufficiency. The most important contributor to a “good job,” one with ample earnings and more than adequate non-wage benefits, was having content-specific educational goals in high school, attaining post-high school training in the same content area, and obtaining jobs that utilized this content background. These findings suggest that chronological interruptions in the traditional occupational attainment process are normative for poor African American women, and, by themselves, are not opportunity costs; however, interruptions in content consistency result in lowered occupational attainment.

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