Majority of high-paying Boston jobs dominated by whites

Yawu Miller | 4/9/2014, 10:48 a.m.
For people of color, the school department is a mirror image of the rest of the city. While whites make ...
While Boston is a majority-minority city, the majority of the city’s payroll goes to whites, who occupy the majority of the highest-paid positions in city government. (Banner photo)

For people of color, the school department is a mirror image of the rest of the city. While whites make up the majority of the employees in the schools with 57 percent, people of color make up the majority at the highest level of pay, with 53 percent of those jobs.

But outside of the school department, the highest-paying jobs are monopolized by whites, who occupy 220 — 88 percent — of the 250 top-paying jobs in city government. Those numbers, compiled by City Councilor Charles Yancey, do not include overtime or salaries at quasi-public agencies like the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Boston Housing Authority or the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. Of the 12 percent of the top-paying jobs held by people of color, 7 percent are held by African Americans, 4 percent by Latinos and 2 percent by Asians.

“The numbers are very disturbing,” says Yancey, who is in the midst of a series of council meetings on hiring and promotions in the city. “In the vast majority of city departments people of color are dramatically underrepresented in the top-paid positions. It represents a challenge for the new administration as well as for the City Council.”

The figures Yancey has culled are as of Dec. 31, 2013, and do not reflect any of the promotions and new hires that have taken place during the administration of newly-elected Mayor Martin Walsh.

On the campaign trail, Walsh pledged that his administration would reflect the city’s diversity at every level. While the numbers culled by Yancey suggest that many city departments have a long way to go, Walsh said he would honor his promise.

“We’re going to stick to what I promised to do as a candidate — to make sure the city government reflected the population of the city of Boston at every level,” he said.

Walsh said he has ordered a performance audit of the city’s Human Resources department, examining how city employees are hired. But changes to the city’s workforce are likely to take a few years. Because most city employees are protected by civil service laws and union contracts, the Walsh administration has little leeway to replace existing employees.

“You can’t just move people out,” Walsh said. “Over time, the numbers will change. I’m very focused on that.”

Yancey said the concentration of people of color in the schools may have been an outcome of the department running under a consent decree from the school desegregation lawsuit filed in the ‘70s. But more likely, he noted, leadership may be a factor.

“I think a lot has to do with who the superintendent is in the department,” he commented. “I’m not saying the superintendent has to be black to have a high percentage of people of color, but I don’t think it hurts.”

At the Boston Center for Youth and Families, headed by Christopher Bynner who is black, 42 percent of the pay goes to African Americans, 41 percent to whites, 14 percent to Latinos and 3 percent to Asians.