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Impact of Gen AI on Black Economic Mobility

Generative AI has the potential to widen the racial economic gap in the United States – but if deployed thoughtfully, it may remove barriers to Black economic mobility, according to research from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility. 

New wealth created by AI flows through an economy where the Black median household income has 15% of the wealth held by the median white household. While the median Black family has about $44,900 in wealth, the median white household has $285,000 in total assets. Implemented without correcting long-standing patterns, generative AI may increase the racial wealth gap.  

Black Americans capture about 38 cents of every dollar of new household wealth despite representing 13% of the U.S. population. If this continues, racially disparate distribution of new wealth created by generative AI may increase the wealth gap by $43 billion annually by 2045.  

At the same time, Black Americans are overrepresented in roles most likely to be taken over by automation – office support, production work, food services, and mechanical installation and repair. Without reskilling, the trend may worsen even further. While generative AI does not put low-wage jobs at risk in the same way previous advances have, the technology will likely alter professional pathways that Black workers utilize to move to high-paying jobs.  

While 74% of Black workers do not have college degrees, one in eight has moved to a gateway or target job – offering higher salaries despite not needing advanced degrees. The AI revolution may impact those occupations, including customer support, production supervision, and office support.  

Rather than preparing the workforce for “future-proof jobs,” the rapid development of AI technology requires workers to learn “future-proof skills,” including socioemotional abilities, physical presence with hand-eye coordination that’s difficult for machines to replicate, and comfort with ambiguity and complex problem-solving, according to the report.  

A recent report from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility identifies eight pillars representing areas with the highest potential to advance Black economic mobility. These are financial inclusion, credit and ecosystem development for small businesses, health, workforce and jobs, pre-K-12 education, the digital divide, affordable housing, and public infrastructure. If implemented thoughtfully, generative AI can have a profoundly positive impact on these pillars. 

Read the full report from the McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility here.  

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