South Dakota’s racial employment gap

Added March 4th, 2014 by

South Dakota’s Native American-white employment gap is 32.7% – the largest in the nation.[i]

What accounts for this large employment gap between whites and Native Americans in South Dakota?   

Native American-white employment gap in SD

Analysis of South Dakota’s racial employment gap examined how the odds of being employed are affected by state of residence, educational attainment, facility with English, disability, living on or near a reservation, age, sex, Hispanic ethnicity, veteran status, number of children, marital status and urbanicity

Study Findings:

Even when South Dakotans who are Native Americans are similar to South Dakotas who are white in terms of these factors, their odds of being employed in South Dakota are 24 percent lower than those of whites.[ii]  

Study Recommendations [iii]: 

1.  All levels of government should support strong Native American self-determination and leadership.

2.  The number of Native American community development financial institutions should be increased, and existing ones should be strengthened.

3.  The following policies will likely increase the Native American employment rate through improved educational outcomes:

  • Improving Native American maternal and child health
  • Providing high-quality early childhood education for Native American children
  • Maximizing the number of regular high school diplomas obtained by Native Americans
  • Increasing the number and size of tribal programs supporting higher education

4.  Researchers need to conduct investigations of:

  • states and tribes with best Native American employment situations to see what lessons can be learned.
  • states with the worst Native American employment situations to see what can be improved.
  • The role of racial discrimination in Native American employment outcomes.

5.  To better understand Tribal labor markets, researchers will need better labor data than are available in the American Community Survey.


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