Future of Work

The Impact of Automation on Black Jobs

Almost a quarter of African-American workers are concentrated in just 20 occupations that are at high risk to automation, such as cashiers, retail salespersons, cooks, and security guards.

The 20 occupations with a high risk of automation over the next 10-20 years (80-99 percent) that employ the most African Americans account for 24.1 percent of all jobs currently held by African-Americans in the United States (4,334,300).

By comparison, the 20 occupations with a low risk of automation (0-20 percent) that employ the most African Americans account for 13.8 percent of African-American jobs (2,489,400).

The numbers below do not reflect Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers because the automation risk of 0.79 falls just below our 0.80 floor. Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers alone account for 1.7 percent of the entire Black workforce (299,000 Black workers).

Click here for a printable PDF. (updated Nov. 14, 2017)

Originally prepared for The Future of Work CBCF ALC Issue Forum, hosted by Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester

Jobs at High-Risk to Automation (80-99%) That Employ the Most African Americans
 Occupation# of Black JobsAutomation
2Drivers/Sales Workers & Truck Drivers524,2000.98
3Retail Salespersons407,4000.92
4Laborers & Freight, Stock, & Material Movers, Hand378,1000.85
6Security Guards & Gaming Surveillance Officers280,6000.84
7Secretaries & Administrative Assistants236,0000.96
8Waiters & Waitresses196,0000.94
9Miscellaneous Assemblers & Fabricators192,600likely above 0.80
10Office Clerks, General189,1000.96
11Receptionists & Information Clerks173,0000.96
12Production Workers, All Others165,5000.92
13Bus Drivers162,6000.67/0.89
14Industrial Truck & Tractor Operators157,3000.93
15Accountants & Auditors151,0000.94
16Food Preparation Workers149,0000.87
17Construction Laborers145,9000.88
18Taxi Drivers & Chauffeurs143,5000.89
19Ground Maintenance Workers114,3000.95
20Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers & Weighers94,0000.98

Jobs at Low-Risk to Automation (0-20%) That Employ the Most African Americans


 Occupation# of Black JobsAutomation Risk
1Registered Nurses369,1000.009
2Elementary & Middle School Teachers328,2000.0044/0.17
3Childcare Workers218,9000.084
4Licensed Practical & Licensed Vocational Nurses197,9000.058
5First-Line Supervisors of Office & Administrative Support Workers150,1000.014
6Food Service Managers118,0000.083
7Hairdressers, Hairstylists, & Cosmetologists99,9000.11
8Post-Secondary Teachers99,4000.032
9Preschool & Kindergarten Teachers86,5000.0074/0.15
10Police & Sheriff’s Patrol Officers85,0000.098
11Financial Managers82,6000.069
12Management Analysts81,2000.13
13First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers80,2000.075
14Physicians & Surgeons79,6000.0042
15Medical & Health Service Managers78,3000.0073
16First-Line Supervisors of Production & Operation Workers74,0000.016
17Chefs & Head Cooks67,6000.1
18General & Operations Managers67,4000.16
19Social & Community Service Managers64,8000.0067
20Software Developers, Systems Software60,8000.13
This data is just the beginning. Next steps include a more comprehensive examination of additional occupations, a comparison of the impact of automation on different racial groups, an analysis of the risk of automation using an alternative methodology that examines the probability of automation of particular tasks (rather than entire jobs), and policy recommendations to help workers, entrepreneurs, companies, and governments mitigate challenges and take advantage of new opportunities to thrive in the new economy.

*Spencer Overton is a Professor of Law at George Washington University and the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  Thanks to GW Law student Arie Smith for stellar research assistance in compiling these charts.

**The source of the Black job data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, last modified Feb. 8, 2017, and the source of the automation risk data is Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization? September 17, 2013 (appendix p. 57-72). See also Center for Global Policy Solutions, Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work, March 2017 (finding that “Blacks rely on driving jobs more than other racial/ethnic groups” and providing extensive analysis of the impact of autonomous vehicles on Americans who work as drivers and policy recommendations).

***This data brief was revised on November 14, 2017.  Frey and Osborne’s automation probability is organized with a version of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), which has an overlapping but a slightly more detailed classification of occupations than the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (CPS) occupations racial data.  Thus, for some subcategories of occupations we have automation risk, but we have racial data only for the larger occupational category. Our revision eliminated subcategories with an automation risk under 0.80, and applied the racial breakdown of the CPS category of an occupation to all of the SOC subcategories of the occupation.  As a result of the revision, we found that 24.1 percent (rather than 26.7 percent) of Black workers are concentrated in just 20 occupations with a high risk of automation.

About Joint Center

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, America’s Black think tank, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1970 and based in Washington, DC. The Joint Center's mission is to inform and illuminate the nation's major public policy debates through research, analysis, and information dissemination in order to improve the socioeconomic status of Black communities in the United States; expand their effective participation in the political and public policy arenas; and promote communication and relationships across racial and ethnic lines to strengthen the nation's pluralistic society.