<< Back to Mentions


Published Jan 10, 2021

Op-Ed: A major culprit in the wage gap between Blacks and whites is America’s immigration policy


The median white household owns over 10 times as many assets as the median Black household — a gap that has actually widened since the civil rights victories of the 1960s.

There are all sorts of reasons for this staggering inequality — from segregation, redlining, loan discrimination and other systemically racist policies that historically shut many Black people out of homeownership and prevented them from building generational wealth, to mass incarceration and sentencing disparities that put a generation of disproportionately Black men behind bars for nonviolent crimes and made it nearly impossible for them to get decent jobs after their release.

But one of the biggest — yet most underexplored — culprits is America’s immigration policy. Throughout our nation’s history, employers have preferred to hire newly arrived foreigners, who will often work for rock-bottom wages, instead of Black workers....  

....As Roy Beck’s new book, “Back of the Hiring Line,” thoroughly documents, Black Americans enjoy good economic opportunities only in tight labor markets. That’s why, in the decades following the Civil War, Black leaders like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey and A. Philip Randolph all favored restricting immigration to help free enslaved people and their descendants....

....Politicians in both parties pay lip service to helping Black Americans. If they were truly sincere, they’d listen to generations of civil rights leaders who’ve all recognized that the best way to boost Black Americans’ fortunes is to ensure tight labor markets.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Get your copy of Back of the Hiring Line shipped directly to your address.

Ask your local Bookstore to stock Back of the Hiring Line, now available for wholesale. 

Back Cover Text


While most Americans justifiably celebrate Ellis Island ancestors, here are the stories of what the long period of mass immigration after the Civil War meant to freed slaves, their children and grandchildren in the hiring lines of America: decades of delays in gaining industrial job experience, skills and career connections, and constant setbacks in accumulating and transferring wealth.

Average Black household wealth in the 21st century is only a fraction of the wealth of other racial ethnic groups, including recent immigrants. There are many reasons. This book is about one of them: periodic sustained immigration surges over the last two centuries.

This is a little-told story of the struggles of freed slaves and their descendants to climb job ladders in the eras of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Barbara Jordan, and other African American Leaders who advocated tight-labor migration policies. It is a great history of bitter disappointment and, occasionally, of great hope.

Linda Beck