New Report from OneTen Takes an In-Depth Look at the Economic and Workplace Experiences of Black Talent Without Degrees


FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailOneTen, a coalition of leading executives and companies dedicated to creating one million family-sustaining careers for talent without four-year degrees, today released its latest research report, “Skills First Pathways: Insights on the Economy, Jobs and Workplace Culture from Black Talent Without Degrees.” The report’s insights are the results of research conducted in partnership with Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) and offer an in-depth look at the economic and workplace experiences of Black talent without degrees. It provides actionable insights for employers committed to fostering more inclusive work environments.

While recent data suggests a decline in both the pay gap between Black and white workers and in the Black unemployment rate, the lived experiences of Black workers without a four-year degree tell a much more complex story. The journey of Black talent in the labor market, particularly amidst rising inflation, underscores a stark reality: when it comes to achieving inclusive and equitable experiences for Black talent, there is still much work to be done. Adopting skills-first hiring approaches can provide these workers with greater opportunities while fostering a more equitable workforce.

“The results of this research demonstrate the need for a fundamental shift in how we approach talent acquisition and workplace culture. When it comes to unlocking the potential of millions of skilled individuals who have been overlooked due to the lack of a four-year degree, embracing skills-first hiring practices is a great start. But companies must go further by listening to, and addressing, the specific needs of underrepresented talent,” said Debbie Dyson, CEO of OneTen.

Key Findings:

  • Economic and Job Market Challenges: Black workers without four-year degrees face significant barriers to achieving equitable employment. Only 23% rate their economic situation as good or excellent, compared to 46% of the general American population. Furthermore, 77% rate their economic circumstances as fair or poor, compared to 53% of the broader U.S. population, highlighting stark disparities.
  • Employment Statistics: Among those surveyed, 40% report being unemployed, double the rate of their Black peers with degrees. Only 34% are employed full-time, compared to 63% of prime-age Americans. Additionally, 88% of Black talent without degrees work in hourly wage jobs, compared to the national average of 58%.
  • Decreased Confidence in Economic Stability: The report reveals a significant decline in Black professionals’ confidence in their economic stability. For example, 80% now rate the affordability of food and groceries as poor or fair, a 13-percentage-point increase from previous OneTen surveys. Concerns about childcare affordability, retirement security, and the overall job market have similarly worsened since 2022.

Challenges Highlighted:

  • Inflation and Cost of Living: Black talent without four-year degrees are significantly more worried about inflation than the general American population, with the rising cost of living exacerbating their economic challenges.
  • Workplace Culture and Inclusivity: The report highlights feelings of being undervalued and a low sense of belonging in the workplace. Only 27% of those surveyed indicate feeling a strong sense of trust in their organizations’ appreciation for Black employees.


  • Adopting Skills-First Hiring Practices: Employers should refocus talent acquisition on candidates’ skills and competencies rather than formal education, which can help uplift all workers, especially those traditionally marginalized by the labor market.
  • Creating Inclusive Work Environments: Organizations need to invest in continuous learning, mentorship programs, and clear career pathways to support Black talent without degrees. Proactively addressing workplace culture issues and fostering inclusivity are crucial for retention and employee satisfaction.

Read the full report: Skills First Pathways: Insights on the Economy, Jobs and Workplace Culture from Black Talent Without Degrees

About OneTen:
Founded in 2020, OneTen is a coalition of leading chief executives and their companies dedicated to upskilling, hiring and promoting one million Black individuals, and others, without four-year degrees into family-sustaining jobs within ten years. OneTen connects employers with talent developers, skill-credentialing organizations, nonprofits, and community-based partners to create equitable and inclusive workforces across the U.S. Learn more at