The 'Working Class' Becomes Less White

working class blue collar raceThe "working class" usually conjures the image of a low-wage laborer, who never got a college degree, doesn't sit in a cubicle, and doesn't wear a suit. He is also a "he," and a white one too, just like his male proletarian forebears. But racial minorities make up an ever greater percentage of this group. In New York City's construction industry, a traditional pillar of the working class, white employees are a shrinking minority.

White workers went from 48 percent of the city's construction industry in 2009 to 40 percent in 2010, according to the Census Bureau survey. White men still make up a majority of construction workers in this country, but Hispanics are significantly overrepresented; they make up 14 percent of the U.S. labor force, but almost a quarter of all construction workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In New York City, however, the percentage of Hispanic construction workers actually fell by 5 percent between 2009 and 2010 to 36 percent of the labor force, slightly less than the 8 percent drop for whites. The gains were solely among blacks and Asians, by 2 percent and a whopping 12 percent, respectively.

"New York City's construction industry has been and remains a vital source of meaningful employment opportunities for recent immigrants and residents of all educational backgrounds," said New York Building Congress President Richard Anderson.

The Working Class Crumbles

Construction, along with other solidly working class industries, like manufacturing and farmwork, have long provided the first stepping stone for immigrants, whether it was the Irish who helped construct our country's canals and railroads, the Germans who became the majority of our Midwestern farmers, or the Italians and Eastern European Jews who helped build America's garment industry into the envy of the world.

But these industries are crumbling. Since October 2000, the U.S. lost almost a third of its manufacturing jobs, which translates into 5.5 million layoffs. With fewer building projects in the last few hard-pressed years, cascades of construction workers have found themselves without a paycheck. In New York City, this industry declined 3.8 percent between 2009 and 2010.

As technology and the relocation of industries offshore continue to vaporize these jobs on American soil, there is little hope of recovery. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts just 1.7 percent annual growth in the construction industry by 2018.

The damage to these sectors could help explain the growing racial wealth gap. The median household worth of whites fell from $135,000 in 2005 to $113,000 in 2009, but for Hispanics it plummeted by two-thirds, from $18,000 to $6,000, according to the Pew Research Center.

Growing, Invisibly

This diverse image of the working class is largely absent from our screens. The working class in general has been invisible in the media for most of the last half century, since the bus driver husband and homemaker wife of the "Honeymooners" gave way to the upper middle class household of "Leave It to Beaver."

But in the last few years the working class has reappeared in the reality genre. But the representation isn't particularly inclusive. The fishermen of "Deadliest Catch," the long-haul drivers of "Ice Road Truckers," the loggers in "Ax Men," and the oil riggers of "Black Gold" are almost exclusively white.

The stories of working class immigrants and minorities are rarely told, like the fact that almost half of construction workers in New York City do not have health insurance, or that Hispanics have the highest rate of work-related fatalities.

In order to climb off the lowest rung before it fully collapses, education, as always, is the answer. If you are born into the lowest earning fifth of the population, but get a four-year degree, you are four times as likely to climb your way up into the top earning fifth. The professional, scientific, and technical industries are expected to boom in the coming decade, and a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math, experts remind us over and over, is the ticket to a long and lucrative career.

Unfortunately, only one in six employed Hispanics who are 25 or over have a bachelor's degree, less than half the number for working whites. But in one figure, Hispanics are outshining the rest. Between 2002 and 2007, Hispanic-owned businesses grew at twice the national average. Small businesses are the much ballyhooed engine of this economy, and ones owned by Hispanics are the fastest growing slice of the small business pie.

Next: Epic Fail: Millennials Get Slammed In Poll On Workplace Attitudes

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Oh yeah aint that the truth. Wow.

December 27 2011 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Christopher Moore

No body wants to do actual physical work... thats why the slave owners bought slaves they were too lazy to do the actual physical work themselves so they forced others..its not just whites its all through out history humans are just lazy creatures

December 27 2011 at 4:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We employ construction workers in NYC. Bottom line is white men (also black men) do not want to work as hard for their dollars hispanic men do. Construction jobs are high paying but they are also hard work.

December 26 2011 at 7:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is no surprise to white people. Everyone is "discriminated" against but them. This may have been true at one time but not since Afermative Action came into being. White people were for it because they believed it would lead to a more fair environment for everyone. Instead the Liberals and Political Correctness have twisted it until it is the White Christians that are becoming an endangered species.

December 26 2011 at 7:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


December 25 2011 at 11:18 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I'm appalled by the number of people who embrace the concept of "class". You're all Marxist tool, or as
Marx referred to as "useful idiots". The U.S. was founded as a classless society and despite the efforts
of such fools, it remains so. Collectivists manufactured the concept of "Class" so as to foment animosity between them. Create the concept, categorize individuals based on certain criteria, encourage individuals to abandon their individuality for the sake of their "class", create envy among the "class" with the fewest resources toward the "class": with the most and encourage a movement to "equalize" such resources through the use of force and label it a "revolution". You may have a vague concept
or sense that you belong to a "class" but if you act on it politically, you're falling prey to those who would use you to help create a single class of automatons, subservient to the all-powerful state. Again, the U.S. is a classless society. You are not born into serfdom with no hope or born into aristocracy with a guarantee of a privileged future. Everything can be gained or lost. It's ultimately up to you. Don't be such fools.

December 25 2011 at 11:10 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dontfeelyourpain's comment

A classless society, really?
That is third grade propaganda at it's best. We were founded as a nation that only allowed the voted to MEN with property. How do you get any of your points from that sad fact?

December 26 2011 at 7:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jelun's comment

Your use of the term "Third Grade Propaganda" is senseless. Only government or government-controlled media can engage in propaganda and at any rate, I hear nothing from government
claiming that we are a classless society. In fact, I hear the exact opposite; constant, almost daily
pronouncements from the White House and allied media about efforts to help the "Middle Class" and the "Working Class", and you refer to ME as the propagandist? As to your statement concerning 18th Century voting laws relative to "class" in America, you make no sense whatsoever. You need to clarify.

December 26 2011 at 4:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
Toms Military

Well stated. Class is used to tear everything down.

December 26 2011 at 11:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh there are less white people yet everyone is the minority.

December 25 2011 at 11:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi - Well it seems that a great country was built in a short period of time, 200 years. Now everybody and anybody, legally or illegally wants to come here. We have alot of problems but somehow, someway it will workout. For those that are truely disgusted have moved to 2 other countries, that have welcomed us with open arms. Yeah, no Indian stories..... It's becoming very popular, I might be joining them. They do have certain requests. You have to have a job, money for yourself and/or willing to work to get it and a couple of other things that I will not disclose. My doctor told be about it before he left and now I get a newsletter.

December 25 2011 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

minority is the new word for kill whitey

December 25 2011 at 10:32 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Where has everyone been the White Man has been in the minority for a long time now. As our potiticians keep allowing illeegals from coming into the country we will and the Arabs the White Man will be all out beat by all other races.

December 25 2011 at 7:47 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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