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News from EPI People of color will be the majority of the working class by 2032

In a new paper, EPI economist and director of the Project on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy Valerie Wilson projects that people of color will be a majority of the working class by 2032—11 years earlier than the overall U.S. population.

“It is important to realize that the working class is more diverse than stereotypical images of white men in blue collar jobs suggest,” said Wilson. “While policies aimed at raising living standards for the working class are often conflated with policies to raise living standards for white workers without college degrees, the reality is that the working class is increasingly people of color, and our policies should reflect that.”

According to the latest projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of the United States will be “majority-minority” in 2043. For the working-age population, the transition takes place in 2039. Meanwhile, the working class—defined by Wilson as working people without a college degree—will reach this milestone even sooner, based on long-term labor force projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and continuation of trends in college completion among different demographic groups. Wilson writes that this transition will have a profound effect on the future of our economic, political, and social infrastructure.

“As people of color become the majority of the working class, economic inequality and racial inequality will likely become more indistinguishable,” said Wilson. “Improving the living standards of working people will necessarily involve bridging racial and ethnic divides and fighting for racial justice.”

Wilson discusses the many implications of this transition, including the possibility that racial resentment and divisions could prevent tomorrow’s working class from achieving the stability and living standards of previous generations. The best way to advance policies to raise living standards for working people is for diverse groups to recognize that they share more in common than not, and work together to achieve their overlapping and intersecting agendas.