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05 September 2000

Minorities Not Reaping Benefits of State's Strong Labor Market

While California's labor market continues to be strong, Latinos and African-Americans - who together make up 31 percent of California's working population - are being left behind by the state's technology-driven economic boom, according to a UCSF-led study.

"California's rising tide is not lifting all boats," said Irene Yen, PhD, an epidemiologist at the UCSF Institute for Health and Aging and co-investigator of the third California Work and Health Survey (CWHS). "When compared with the state's white working population, working Latinos and African-Americans are still playing catch up."

Latinos are much less likely than whites to benefit from the growth in jobs in the high technology sector because they are less likely to have completed high school or college and much less likely to report using a computer in their workplaces, she said.

Among employed Californians, Latinos are 11 times more likely than whites to live in poverty. They are also more likely than whites to lack pension plans and health insurance coverage and to report poor perceived health status, she added.

Only 25 percent of Latinos have traditional jobs, as compared to 36 percent of whites and 38 percent of Asian-Americans, Yen said. She explained that traditional job workers were defined in the 1999 CWHS as those who hold a full-time job year-round, work a day shift as a permanent employee, are paid by the firm for which the work is done, and do not work from home or as independent contractors.

"Though the California job market is changing and increasing numbers of Californians are working in non-traditional jobs, traditional jobs are still associated with more stable incomes and availability of pension and health care plans," she explained.

As with Latinos, only one-quarter of African-Americans report having a traditional job. Similarly, African Americans in the labor force are more likely than whites to have lower incomes and temporary jobs and to report poorer health status. They are two-thirds more likely than whites to report high blood pressure.

These results show a striking contrast in health experiences for different racial, ethnic groups in California, said Yen, who added that these results of poorer employment and health status persist even after taking into account age, sex and educational level.

Asian-Americans showed mixed employment and health results, she said. Over 50 percent reported at least a college degree, compared to 40 percent of whites. Asian-Americans are just as likely as whites to have a traditional job, a pension plan and health insurance coverage, she said. However, Asian-Americans are still over twice as likely as whites to have poverty household incomes. The 2000 California Work and Health Survey included only English-speaking Asian-Americans.

To complete the California Work and Health Survey, researchers interviewed 2,168 California adults (1,265 of whom were part of the 1999 CWHS). The 2000 California Work and Health Survey is the third year of a longitudinal study of the California adult population. Researchers at UCSF are funded by a grant from The California Wellness Foundation. The survey was administered by the Field Institute, a nonprofit public policy organization in San Francisco.


UCSF Institute for Health and Aging

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