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Why are Blacks are Underrepresented in the Aviation Industry – Research Guider

The paper 'Why are Blacks are Underrepresented in the Aviation Industry?' is a great example of a research paper on sociology.
Ethnic minorities including African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian or Native American, have been involved in aviation all through its history. Whether they engaged in setting new records or wars, most minorities have played an integral part in developing aviation nowadays. Even though the number of minorities working in the aviation industry has significantly increased over the past two decades, research still demonstrates that they represent under a third of employees who work in the aviation industry. According to a 2010 research report, the percentage of white Americans was 75.1 percent in the year 2000 and decreased by 2.7 percent in 2010 to 72.4 percent. At the same time, the Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all increased by 0.3 percent, 3.8 percent, and 1.2 percent respectively (US Census Bureau, 2015). Equivalent numbers are also reflected when viewing minorities enrolling at an aviation college programs.

Many research studies suggest that the efforts in increasing diversification should begin earlier so as to offer minorities with efficient methods for enrolling and graduating from aviation college programs in order to guarantee that they are getting equal opportunities to be successful in the aviation industry. So as to better understand the low participation rates of minorities in the American aviation industry, this study will focus on African Americans along with their participation and experiences in the field.

Black minorities in Aviation history.

The experiences of African Americans in the United States is unique and well-known, in its history of slavery and of severe exclusion, segregation, and oppression. These experiences affect many blacks since it stands as a constant reminder that America is nowhere capable of declaring victory in the war to offer equal treatment and opportunities to each of its citizens (Evans & Moore, 2015). Racism influences the health of a nation by hindering some people the opportunity to receive their highest level of health, as Jee-Lyn Garcia & Sharif (2015) puts it, racism operates at numerous levels of society and it is the main driving force of the social health determinants (such as employment, education, and housing), and becomes a barrier to people’s health. One of the areas that racism has greatly affected is in the aviation industry.

For much of its existence, the aviation industry has mostly been managed by white people who have established roadblocks in the way of blacks and consequently curbed their interests. In spite of a rich heritage in the aviation field as a career choice, Blacks have been repeatedly underrepresented across 3 major areas of aviation in America since the 1920s including business, military, airline transport aviation. The first black pilot, Bessie Coleman, earned a license in America and had to go flight training in France. Also, Eugene Bullard flew with the French during World War 1. The efforts of encouraging the black movement in aviation started in the early 1930s in spite of segregation barriers. Flying clubs were developed for the Blacks which urged black youths to consider aviation as a career. Aeronautic schools (like National Airmen’s Association and the Challenge Air Pilots’) were also built to promote aviation in the black society. 

However, all the black aviators, including Colman and Bullard, who flew in the war were not hired by a major airline after they returned. African Americans were hired into blue-collar jobs like ground handlers and skycaps in the aviation commercial industry. They were excluded from filling administrative and key managerial positions and becoming pilots. It took civil rights movements and court battles to open the cockpit to African Americans in the year 1960. Opportunities gradually opened up since then for blacks, but the progress has been rather slow and hard-won.


There is still a low percentage of blacks enrolling in the aviation industry even after breaking down the barriers and opening up a promising future for other blacks. According to Ison (2009), the status of blacks nowadays could be characterized as a glass which is half full (when measured by the progress made since 1939) or as a glass which is half empty (when measured by the endless disparities between white and black Americans since 1970). In the year 1998, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hired 50, 249 and the workforce. The Blacks increased from 12.5 percent to 30.8 percent. In the year 2012, 47,739 people were hired, and among these employees, just 2.7 percent were blacks. But in 2014, the number of blacks reduced to 2 percent. The number of African Americans in the workforce were below the Civilian Labour Force average. Underrepresentation of minority students was also present in Maths, Technology, Science and Engineering programs in higher education in the USA, including aviation programs. From the year 1996 to the year 2006, the number of bachelor degrees that were earned by Blacks increased by 2 percent, and during this time, 20 percent were women and men earning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math degrees (STEM). In the year 2010, 507,143 students earned bachelor degrees in STEM majors, and of these people 9.9 percent were blacks.

Why are Blacks are underrepresented in the Aviation industry?

Around one-third of the school-age population in America is black. But, these groups present just 11 percent of those with STEM occupations. Therefore, which factors are contributing to the small numbers of blacks in STEM occupations, especially aviation? According to Tara and Roberts  (2011), institutional, structural and cultural barriers could result in a student to choose not to pursue a STEM occupation or programs. Public school funding greatly relies on property taxes, meaning that school districts which contain low-income neighborhoods that are usually highly populated with minorities, do not get sufficient funding for resources and teachers.

Substantial school districts offer students new equipment and textbooks, qualified teachers, and a range of enhanced classes since they have the funding. Less substantial school districts will usually have out-of-date textbooks,  lack technology or equipment, unqualified teachers, and teachers who are needed to instruct classes off their degree majors. Such school districts can also lack in the number of AP or Advanced Placement courses. Studies have shown that students who partake more advanced mathematics and science courses in high school do not have the chance to receive this kind of experience.  

Cultural opposition is also another factor in black underrepresentation in the aviation industry. People who belong to minority groups might feel more pressured into abandoning their own culture to comply with the traditions and culture of the majority (Gabbidon, Penn, Jordan & Higgins, 2009). Such pressure creates a room of resistance, inadequacy and hates amongst minority students. Consequently, the school performance becomes influenced and results in minority students dropping out.

Also, stereotype threats could be a factor affecting most black students. Stereotype threats are usually referred to as being at risk of adopting a negative stereotype about a person’s groups. In the year 1995, some studies examined the effects of stereotypes on student performance by using two scenarios  The first scenario, white and black college students were asked to fo a test which would show student’s intellectual capabilities, while in the second scenario, white and college students were told to do the same test without mentioning intellectual indication. The results demonstrated that black students in the second group performed just like white students and also higher than the black students in the first group. Therefore, whether competence and race are highlighted in schools by peers, teachers or at home, it could create a loss of self-confidence and interest within students. Moreover, the feelings of failure can result in a student performing poorly on academics.

Problem statement

The underrepresentation of black people in the aviation industry is a serious problem that should be dealt with. In spite of the multiple strategies which have been tried to retain and attract blacks and other minorities in aviation, the number of blacks is still low. The initial step to diversifying the aviation industry is to stimulate an interest in black students. Next is guaranteeing that once black students are interested in aviation and have greatly made it their chosen majors, they remain in their aviation programs. Understanding why students are not persisting or enrolling in the aviation industry could offer college programs with methods to maximize minority presence. It is significant that when blacks have chosen aviation as a career, research is done to obtain insights on their choices and experiences of their collegiate programs.


Evans, L., & Moore, W. L. (2015). Impossible burdens: White institutions, emotional labour, and micro-resistance. Social Problems, 62(3), 439-454.

Gabbidon, S. L., Penn, E. B., Jordan, K. L., & Higgins, G. E. (2009). The influence of race/ethnicity on the perceived prevalence and support for racial profiling at airports. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 20(3), 344-358.

Ison, D. C. (2009). Have we made progress? Trends in minority participation in postsecondary aviation education. Collegiate Aviation Review, 27(1), 53.

Jee-Lyn García, J., & Sharif, M. Z. (2015). Black lives matter: a commentary on racism and public health. American journal of public health, 105(8), 27-30.

Tara, L., & Roberts, P. (2011). The black experience in business aviation: An exploratory case study. Journal of Aviation Technology and Engineering, 1(1), 4.

US Census Bureau. (2015). 2010 census data products: United States. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/ projections-laborforce.htm

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