Have Disparities in Employment Outcomes by Race/Ethnicity Changed Over Time?

NALP Bulletin, January 2021

The recently released NALP publication, Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Graduates — Class of 2019, features new data on disparities in employment outcomes by race/ethnicity, among other demographics. This article further explores how these disparities have changed during the past five years. While gaps persist in employment rates for many racial groups as compared to all graduates, these gaps have narrowed in most cases during this time period, although progress has not been linear. In examining trends by race/ethnicity in the percentage of graduates employed in bar passage required jobs, progress has been more muddled.

Chart 1 displays differences in employment rates by race/ethnicity (in percentage points) as compared to all graduates from 2015-2019. A negative number indicates a lower percentage of employed graduates compared to graduates overall and a positive number indicates a higher percentage of employed graduates compared to the class as a whole. In each of the past five years, Black graduates have experienced the largest differential in employment rates as compared to all graduates; however, this gap has narrowed from just over six percentage points in 2015 to just under five percentage points in 2019. The gap for Latinx grads has narrowed from three percentage points to about two percentage points and the difference for Asian graduates has contracted by 0.5 percentage points, although 2019 showed some regression. While the differential for multiracial graduates actually grew from 2015-2017, it has since fallen back below the level from 2015 and employment rates for multiracial graduates are now just below that of the class as a whole.

The number of Native American or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates in each class year is fairly small as seen in Table 1; therefore, employment rates may be more subject to fluctuation from year to year. For Native Americans, differences in employment rates have varied and include years of both positive and negative differentials as compared to all graduates; however, 2019 was a year in which these disparities reached their highest level for the five-year period. Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates have maintained employment rates on par with or above graduates overall. Finally, employment rate differentials for white graduates have been fairly stable, holding at about two percentage points above the class as a whole for the past five years.

Due to the higher employment rates for white graduates, disparities in employment rates are further magnified when using white graduates as the comparator but follow the same general patterns. Gaps between Black or African American and white graduates have narrowed slightly from about eight percentage points in 2015 to about seven percentage points in 2019. With the exception of Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates, who had the highest employment rate by race/ethnicity in 2019, differentials in employment rates for other racial groups as compared to white graduates ranged from about two to seven percentage points in 2019. (See Table 1.)

Table 1 further explores these data by both race/ethnicity and gender. Asian, multiracial, and white women generally had higher employment rates compared to men in their respective racial groups during this time period. Conversely, Black men and Latinx men usually had higher employment rates as compared to Black women and Latinx women, respectively. The gender gap for Latinx graduates has been narrowing though. No concrete trends by gender were observed for Native American and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates.

Chart 2 depicts differences in the percentage of graduates employed in bar passage required jobs as compared to all graduates. Like Chart 1, a negative number indicates a lower percentage of graduates employed in bar passage required jobs compared to graduates overall and a positive number indicates a higher percentage of graduates employed in bar passage required jobs compared to the class as a whole. Progress in narrowing gaps here has been more mixed.

As with employment rates, Black graduates have consistently experienced the largest gaps in the percentage of graduates employed in bar passage required jobs as compared to the class overall; however, this differential has declined by almost four percentage points from 2015-2019 - dropping from about 18 percentage points in 2015 to 14 percentage points in 2019. While a gap existed for multiracial graduates from 2015-2017, this gap has since disappeared and the percentage of multiracial graduates in bar passage required jobs now exceeds that of the class as a whole. Gaps for Latinx graduates have been fairly consistent at around three percentage points.

Differentials in employment rates in bar passage required jobs for Asian graduates as compared to all graduates had been fairly steady from 2015-2018 but spiked to their highest levels in the past five years in 2019. Disparities in bar passage rates for Native American and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates were again more subject to fluctuation due to their smaller numbers. However, in 2019 the differential for Native American graduates surged to 13 percentage points, the largest observed gap between Native American graduates and all graduates during this time period. The percentage of white graduates employed in bar passage required jobs has consistently ranged from three to four percentage points higher compared to graduates overall during this time period.

As with employment rates, the higher level of employment in bar passage required jobs for white graduates means that these disparities are further heightened when using white graduates as the comparator, although the same overall trends remain. Gaps between Black graduates and white graduates have narrowed somewhat from about 21 percentage points in 2015 to 17 percentage points in 2019. Differences in the percentage of employed graduates in bar passage required jobs for other racial groups as compared to white graduates ranged from about three to 17 percentage points in 2019. (See Table 2.)

Table 2 takes a closer look at these data on employment in bar passage required jobs by both race/ethnicity and gender. In general, Asian, multiracial, and white women had higher levels of employment in bar passage required jobs than men in their respective racial groups. There were no consistent gender differences in employment in bar passage required jobs for Black, Latinx, Native American, or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander graduates.

While there has been some positive progress in narrowing gaps in employment outcomes by race/ethnicity, the fact remains that these gaps are still quite considerable, particularly for Black graduates. For most racial groups, progress has not been linear, with small movements forward followed by occasional steps back. The differentials for Native American graduates in 2019 are also concerning, but it remains to be seen whether this year is an anomaly or the beginning of a more troubling backward trend.

Additional data on disparities in employment outcomes are available in Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Graduates, Class of 2019 — available now in the NALP Bookstore.


Chart 1. Differences in Employment Rates by Race/Ethnicity Compared to All Graduates, 2015-2019 (in percentage points)



Table 1. Employment Rate by Race/Ethnicity and Gender, 2015-2019

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Employment
Rate (%)
# of Graduates* Employment
Rate (%)
# of Graduates* Employment
Rate (%)
# of Graduates* Employment
Rate (%)
# of Graduates* Employment
Rate (%)
# of Graduates*
All Graduates 86.7% 38,627 87.5% 35,815 88.6% 33,966 89.4% 33,510 90.3% 33,007
All Men 87.2% 19,835 87.6% 17,944 88.6% 16,666 89.9% 16,279 90.3% 15,339
All Women 86.2% 18,385 87.6% 17,092 88.8% 16,413 89.3% 16,199 90.6% 16,447
Asian Graduates 82.3% 2,970 82.8% 2,815 85.5% 2,821 86.3% 2,709 86.4% 2,545
Asian Men 81.7% 1,271 81.8% 1,206 85.7% 1,211 86.5% 1,119 84.6% 1,016
Asian Women 82.7% 1,681 83.5% 1,588 85.4% 1,583 86.0% 1,561 87.9% 1,478
Black or African American Graduates 80.6% 2,808 82.1% 2,694 82.5% 2,601 84.2% 2,652 85.4% 2,552
Black or African American Men 81.2% 1,012 83.0% 996 80.8% 950 85.7% 929 86.5% 882
Black or African American Women 80.2% 1,777 81.5% 1,678 83.5% 1,627 83.4% 1,676 84.7% 1,632
Latinx Graduates 83.7% 2,461 84.6% 3,063 85.5% 2,998 87.7% 3,423 88.1% 3,547
Latinx Men 85.0% 1,089 85.5% 1,317 86.3% 1,304 88.6% 1,543 88.3% 1,523
Latinx Women 82.6% 1,364 83.9% 1,725 85.2% 1,646 87.3% 1,782 87.9% 1,972
Multiracial Graduates 85.4% 1,675 85.9% 970 86.7% 976 89.2% 1,024 89.7% 929
Multiracial Men 85.3% 791 85.8% 487 83.8% 470 89.8% 462 87.0% 377
Multiracial Women 85.5% 880 85.9% 476 89.2% 499 88.8% 554 91.5% 540
Native American or Alaska Native Graduates 84.8% 164 83.8% 136 91.7% 121 89.3% 112 85.5% 117
Native American or Alaska Native Men 86.0% 86 78.0% 59 90.4% 52 93.8% 48 83.3% 48
Native American or Alaska Native Women 83.3% 78 88.2% 76 94.0% 67 85.2% 61 85.9% 64
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Graduates 86.2% 65 89.1% 55 90.0% 40 89.7% 39 92.9% 42
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Men 88.5% 26 91.3% 23 87.5% 24 100.0% 15 90.0% 20
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Women 84.6% 39 87.1% 31 93.8% 16 86.4% 22 95.5% 22
White/Caucasian Graduates 88.4% 25,219 89.4% 23,088 90.7% 21,544 91.3% 20,776 92.1% 20,060
White/Caucasian Men 88.5% 13,946 88.9% 12,570 90.4% 11,516 91.0% 11,053 91.8% 10,201
White/Caucasian Women 88.4% 11,200 90.0% 10,378 91.3% 9,859 91.6% 9,486 92.5% 9,493

Source: NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey, 2015-2019.
*For whom employment status and the appropriate demographic information was reported.


Chart 2. Differences in Graduates Employed in Bar Passage Required Jobs by Race/Ethnicity as Compared to All Graduates (in percentage points)



Table 2: Percentage of Graduates Employed in Bar Passage Required Jobs By Race/Ethnicity and Gender, 2015-2019

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
All Graduates 66.6% 67.7% 71.8% 72.8% 76.2%
All Men 67.0% 67.5% 71.2% 72.8% 75.5%
All Women 66.4% 68.1% 72.8% 73.7% 77.2%
Asian Graduates 62.7% 64.3% 68.6% 69.6% 70.6%
Asian Men 60.6% 61.1% 66.4% 68.3% 66.2%
Asian Women 64.5% 66.4% 70.4% 70.7% 73.7%
Black or African American Graduates 49.1% 51.2% 57.2% 57.5% 62.4%
Black or African American Men 49.7% 51.7% 54.9% 58.3% 61.7%
Black or African American Women 48.8% 51.0% 58.8% 57.2% 62.6%
Latinx Graduates 63.3% 64.1% 68.2% 71.2% 73.1%
Latinx Men 63.9% 63.5% 68.3% 70.0% 73.2%
Latinx Women 62.7% 64.6% 68.5% 73.1% 73.1%
Multiracial Graduates 63.5% 63.0% 67.4% 72.9% 77.2%
Multiracial Men 62.6% 61.8% 63.4% 74.9% 74.8%
Multiracial Women 64.5% 64.3% 70.9% 71.3% 78.7%
Native American or Alaska Native Graduates 65.2% 63.2% 70.2% 72.3% 63.2%
Native American or Alaska Native Men 67.4% 57.6% 69.2% 72.9% 58.3%
Native American or Alaska Native Women 62.8% 67.1% 71.6% 70.5% 65.6%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Graduates 53.8% 65.5% 60.0% 59.0% 73.8%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Men 53.8% 69.6% 41.7% 80.0% 75.0%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander Women 53.8% 61.3% 87.5% 45.5% 72.7%
White/Caucasian Graduates 69.7% 70.9% 75.2% 76.6% 79.8%
White/Caucasian Men 69.3% 70.3% 73.9% 75.6% 78.4%
White/Caucasian Women 70.2% 71.7% 77.0% 78.1% 81.1%

Source: NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey, 2015-2019.

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