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Report May Fuel Racial Hiring Debate in State : Work: Senate study shows disproportionately high number of whites got new top-paying government jobs; Blacks, Latinos more likely hired for lower-paying ones.

March 07, 1995|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — A state Senate report on affirmative action hiring by California local and state agencies in 1993 shows that a disproportionately high percentage of white workers were hired for the highest-level government jobs.

Conversely, the report, which is certain to add to the intensifying debate over affirmative action, found that African Americans and Latinos were more likely to be hired for lower-paying, bottom-rung jobs.

Blacks were represented overall in new hiring in greater percentages than their ratio in the California work force, according to the report by the nonpartisan Senate Office of Research, which conducted the examination at the behest of Democratic state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles). The report is due for release this week. A draft copy was obtained by The Times.

"Compared with their representation in the general work force, whites were overrepresented among new hires at the top of the career ladder; blacks and Hispanics were overrepresented at the bottom," the report said.

One of the authors said the report is intended to provide objective information as the Legislature begins deciding whether to repeal or modify affirmative action policies.

Both sides probably will find arguments to support their viewpoints, the researcher said. The study, which looked at the more than 31,000 new hires made in 1993, the latest year for which complete figures were available, made no conclusions or recommendations.

The report found that whites made up 76% of new employees hired for the highest-paying posts in state and local government agencies described as "officials and administrators." In addition, whites constituted about 69% of those hired for jobs paying more than $43,000 a year.

Whites represent about 60% of the state labor force, according to the study.

African Americans, who constitute about 6% of the state labor force, composed 8.9% of those hired for the top jobs. Latinos, who constitute 24% of the labor force, accounted for 8.4% of the new higher-paying hires. Asian Americans, who are 9% of the work force, represented 6.3% of those hired in the highest-paying categories.

The study also said that women represented 37.3% of those hired for the highest positions. Women constitute about 44% of the California work force.

The researchers did not offer an opinion on whether the disproportionate number of white workers selected for the best jobs violated affirmative action guidelines for women and minorities.

The report did not compare new hires in government against similar high-end hires in the private sector. However, the researchers said that among medium and large employers in California, women constituted 32.9% of the managerial slots in 1993.

The report relied on data from various sources, including the federal census, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, state Department of Finance and the State Personnel Board. A spokesman for the federal commission said the new hires excluded people who had been promoted. They included workers who arrived from another governmental jurisdiction and employees who returned to an agency after leaving its payroll for a time.

The report said that new hires in the category of "service and maintenance jobs," the lowest-paying positions, were represented by whites at about 45%, Latinos at 25%, African Americans at 19% and Asian Americans at about 10%.

Of the 31,139 hires in 1993, the study found that whites constituted 56.4%, Latinos 18.6%, African Americans 11.6% and Asian Americans 12.6%. "This suggests whites and Hispanics were hired at less than parity," the report said. "Blacks and Asians were represented above parity in new hiring."

The study noted that Asian Americans were "strongly represented" as new hires in professional job categories at 16.5%, technical, 13.2%, and administrative support, 13.1%.

The study also found that Latinos achieved parity in relation to their numbers in the overall work force in only two categories of public employment--mid-level paraprofessional slots and low-skilled service and maintenance positions.

Polanco said in an interview that the figures in the study may serve to challenge the notion of some repeal advocates that affirmative action occurs at the expense of white men. He said the purpose of the study was to generate objective facts because much of the debate about affirmative action has been emotional.

Thomas Wood, co-author of a proposed ballot initiative that would repeal affirmative action requirements in public employment, contracting and higher education, said he had not seen the Senate study and declined to comment.

Gov. Pete Wilson recently announced his support for abolition of most affirmative action requirements. In the Legislature, Sen. Quentin L. Kopp (I-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Bernie Richter (R-Chico) have introduced constitutional amendments that mirror the proposed initiative.

Opponents of affirmative action programs contend that California policies should be colorblind and gender neutral. They argue that affirmative action provides preferential treatment that in itself is discriminatory.

Supporters of affirmative action say it is needed because barriers to employment and opportunity still exist in an ethnically diverse California and that repealing such policies could lead to more racial division.

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