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 Jobs Automation
1 Cashiers 580,300 0.97
2 Drivers/Sales Workers & Truck Drivers 524,200 0.98
3 Retail Salespersons 407,400 0.92
4 Laborers & Freight, Stock, & Material Movers, Hand 378,100 0.85
5 Cooks 377,000 0.81-0.96
6 Security Guards & Gaming Surveillance Officers 280,600 0.84
7 Secretaries & Administrative Assistants 236,000 0.96
8 Waiters & Waitresses 196,000 0.94
9 Miscellaneous Assemblers & Fabricators 192,600 likely above 0.80
10 Office Clerks, General 189,100 0.96
11 Receptionists & Information Clerks 173,000 0.96
12 Production Workers, All Others 165,500 0.92
13 Bus Drivers 162,600 0.67/0.89
14 Industrial Truck & Tractor Operators 157,300 0.93
15 Accountants & Auditors 151,000 0.94
16 Food Preparation Workers 149,000 0.87
17 Construction Laborers 145,900 0.88
18 Taxi Drivers & Chauffeurs 143,500 0.89
19 Ground Maintenance Workers 114,300 0.95
20 Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers & Weighers 94,000 0.98

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


  Occupation # of Black Jobs Automation Risk
1 Registered Nurses 369,100 0.009
2 Elementary & Middle School Teachers 328,200 0.0044/0.17
3 Childcare Workers 218,900 0.084
4 Licensed Practical & Licensed Vocational Nurses 197,900 0.058
5 First-Line Supervisors of Office & Administrative Support Workers 150,100 0.014
6 Food Service Managers 118,000 0.083
7 Hairdressers, Hairstylists, & Cosmetologists 99,900 0.11
8 Post-Secondary Teachers 99,400 0.032
9 Preschool & Kindergarten Teachers 86,500 0.0074/0.15
10 Police & Sheriff’s Patrol Officers 85,000 0.098
11 Financial Managers 82,600 0.069
12 Management Analysts 81,200 0.13
13 First-Line Supervisors of Non-Retail Sales Workers 80,200 0.075
14 Physicians & Surgeons 79,600 0.0042
15 Medical & Health Service Managers 78,300 0.0073
16 First-Line Supervisors of Production & Operation Workers 74,000 0.016
17 Chefs & Head Cooks 67,600 0.1
18 General & Operations Managers 67,400 0.16
19 Social & Community Service Managers 64,800 0.0067
20 Software Developers, Systems Software 60,800 0.13
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.