A.I. and Automation’s Chilling Effect on African American Workers—Data Sheet

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The rise of artificial intelligence and, by extension, automation, may hurt African-American workers.

Consulting firm McKinsey released a study this week about the future of work in Black America and found that African Americans could lose 132,000 more jobs than white workers by 2030 due to automation. One reason is that African Americans “are often overrepresented in the ‘support roles’that are most likely to be affected by automation, such as truck drivers, food service workers, and office clerks.”

Overall, African American works could lose 4.5 million jobs by 2030.

The report underscores that while A.I. is ushering in an era of self-driving cars and cashierless stores, people who rely on service-industry jobs may be out of luck. 

In a previous report, McKinsey found that Hispanic and Latino Americans could be even more severely impacted by automation. The reasons are similar: Hispanics and Latinos are also overrepresented in industries in which automation is expected to increase in the coming years.

McKinsey didn’t provide easy answers in its report. But it did offer some ideas that could reduce the impact of A.I. on jobs including lawmakers and companies working together to reskill workers and to invest in cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston or in high-growth hubs including Charlotte and Orlando. 

The report also highlighted how minority groups like the National Urban League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People could help raise awareness about the issues and ensure that they are taken seriously. Newer tech-oriented organizations like Black in AI and Latinx In AI Coalition (LXAI) have already been vocal about the problem. 

As the LXAI notes on its website, “It’s imperative to ensure our community has a voice in the oncoming Autonomous Trucking revolution,” because “Hispanic men make up the 2nd largest demographic of the truck driver population.”

Businesses often talk about how A.I. will augment human workers of the future instead of eliminating them. But it’s a lot more complicated than they let on.  

Jonathan Vanian

On Twitter: @jonathanvanian


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