Automation and AI are coming for jobs — and African American workers are particularly at risk.
African American workers will have higher rates of job displacement than the general US population due to automation, according to a new report by the consultancy McKinsey.
"There is an elevated risk to the African American workforce to modernization, automation, and the global shift that exists in this modern economy," McKinsey partner and report co-author Jason Wright tells Business Insider.
While 22% of all jobs in the total workforce will get "disrupted," meaning either killed or replaced by lower-paying work, it's 10% higher for the African American workforce. That means 4.5 million black jobs could be displaced by 2030 without any intervention, according to McKinsey.
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African American workers are at greater risk for job loss due to being overrepresented in the jobs that will face the most cuts after AI and automation take over, like office support secretaries, fast-food and service workers, and mechanics and other practitioners of production work. About 34% to 36% of jobs in those three sectors will get disrupted, McKinsey says.
The disproportionate impact of automation could exacerbate the already widening racial wealth gap. The wealth gap between the median black and white families in the US has jumped $54,000 since 1992. White Americans own disproportionately more homes and hold less student debt than African Americans — factors that can be traced to historic redlining and discrimination in job hiring.
Automation and AI will impact black men and black women differently.
College education and gender will all impact how severely black Americans will face job loss, McKinsey finds.
While the general black population is 10% more at risk for job disruption, the number jumps to 30% for African American men without a college degree. In fact, the researchers estimate that 28% of jobs held by black men without a college degree will get disrupted by automation and AI by 2030.
Interestingly, while black men face greater risk of job disruption from AI, black women will see relatively fewer job losses. Black women might lose jobs at a lower rate not only compared to black men, but also when compared to white and Asian Americans of all genders.
Black women are currently overrepresented in jobs that will see growth in the next decade, like nursing assistants and home health aides.
However, black and Hispanic women are still paid the least out of every racial-gender pairing.
Wright said understanding the unique ways automation will impact different racial-gender groups will allow for better understanding of which policies to advocate for. Black men might need more job re-skilling training to prepare for job disruption, while black women might need better access to education to attain higher-paying work.
"There's a real benefit to the evolution the economy is going through," he said. "Being smart, especially as a person of color, on the unique risk to you is helpful."