Diversity in the Creative Occupations of Greater Milwaukee: A Labor Analysis

Sara Daleiden of MKE<->LAX served as a key advisor along with other Designing Equity leaders on this recently released Greater Together and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Center for Economic Development report.

Milwaukee has been, for decades, one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the United States, a place where racial inequality is entrenched and pervasive. These disparities are particularly pronounced in the region’s labor market, where racial gaps in employment, earnings, and mobility are among the widest in the nation.

This study, prepared for the Greater Together “designing diversity” initiative, presents the first systematic overview of racial disparities in a part of Milwaukee’s labor market that has attracted increased attention in recent years: occupations in the “creative sector.” After developing a working definition of creative sector occupations, we examine three key questions. First, is employment in creative sector occupations in metro Milwaukee marked by racial disparities and, if so, how wide are those gaps? Specifically, are African Americans and Latinos underrepresented in Milwaukee’s creative occupations, compared to their percentage of the overall metro area labor force? Second, are there differences in the level of racial disparity found in different sub-sectors of creative sector jobs? For example, are persons of color in Milwaukee more or less likely to be underrepresented in jobs as, say, musicians or photographers, as opposed to, say, artists or designers? Finally, the study puts Milwaukee in national perspective. We compare the levels of racial disparity in selected creative occupations in the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, including Milwaukee, by presenting an “index of concentration” that measures the extent to which a given racial group is “underrepresented” or “overrepresented” in a particular occupation, in relation to their share of the metro area’s labor force. As we shall see, although racial disparities in creative occupations are quite evident in Milwaukee, these gaps are not especially out of line with trends in metro areas across the country. Racial disparities in creative sector employment are indeed a common challenge in metropolitan areas across the United States.

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