Structural Racism And Black Women's Employment In The US Health Care Sector

Health Aff (Millwood). 2022 Feb;41(2):265-272. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2021.01400.


The objective of this study was to describe how structural racism and sexism shape the employment trajectories of Black women in the US health care system. Using data from the American Community Survey, we found that Black women are more overrepresented than any other demographic group in health care and are heavily concentrated in some of its lowest-wage and most hazardous jobs. More than one in five Black women in the labor force (23 percent) are employed in the health care sector, and among this group, Black women have the highest probability of working in the long-term-care sector (37 percent) and in licensed practical nurse or aide occupations (42 percent). Our findings link Black women's position in the labor force to the historical legacies of sexism and racism, dating back to the division of care work in slavery and domestic service. Our policy recommendations include raising wages across the low-wage end of the sector, providing accessible career ladders to allow workers in low-wage health care to advance, and addressing racism in the pipeline of health care professions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Health Care Sector*
  • Health Workforce
  • Humans
  • Racism*
  • Social Class
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Systemic Racism