This Room for Debate piece interested me. It asks; “What will the shrinking of the public sector mean for the economic prospects of African-Americans?” That’s a good question. As I skimmed the pieces, I wondered if African-Americans have always been over-represented in public sector employment. Leah Boustan and Bob Margo have published an interesting piece on minority employment at post offices. In more segregating cities, African-Americans are more likely to be working in post offices.
I then remembered that I have the entire 1940 1% Census sitting on my computer. I asked the 1,351,732 observations to teach me 2 facts. Among people who were employed in 1940, 4.4% of whites worked in the public sector while only 1.6% of blacks worked in the public sector. For those with at least a high school degree, 6.8% of whites and 5.4% of blacks worked in the public sector. So, we see that there has been a “cross-over” between then and today. Why?
UPDATE: I define “public employment” based on these three industries; Postal service , Federal public administration, and Local public administration.