Better Life Lab

Working While Black

Fixing racist workplace cultures could add billions to the U.S. economy.


Episode Notes

The Civil Rights movement opened up new work opportunities for Black workers. But decades later, African-Americans work disproportionately in low-wage jobs and are overrepresented in the jobs at highest risk of vanishing because of workplace automation.

White workers, meanwhile, are 50 percent more likely to hold “future proof” jobs. These are the kind of jobs that build often on education in science, technology, engineering and math. And for those Black workers who do find a path to “future proof” jobs in health care or tech, the reward often includes a hostile work environment. And that’s bad news for every American. One study found that eliminating racial inequality could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $2.3 trillion a year. What are we waiting for?


LeRon Barton, tech worker, author of two books, and essayist who has written “What It’s Like to be a Black man in Tech” and other pieces for the Harvard Business Review.

Nahsis Davis, a nurse and union member in Chicago.

Adia Harvey Wingfield, author of Flatlining: Race, Work and Healthcare in the New Economy, and professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.


What it’s Like to be a Black Man in Tech, LeRon Barton, Harvard Business Review, 2021

Flatlining: Race, Work and Healthcare in the New Economy, Adia Harvey Wingfield.

No More Invisible Man, Adia Harvey Wingfield.

Race and the Work of the Future: Advancing Workforce Equity in the United States, PolicyLink, USC Dornsife, burning glass, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Why are Employment Rates so Low among Black men? Holzer, 2021

Digitalization, Automation & Older Black Women: Ensuring Equity in the Future of Work - Chandra Childers, IWPR, 2019


About the Show

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate. All episodes